Worst Films of 2015

                There was definitely more bad movies than listed here, but thankfully I didn’t waste my time with them.  So hooray for me and saved time, because all of the below are films that were a complete waste of time.  Here we go:

8.            Home

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                Home had a pretty interesting and funny trailer, so it looked like it could be a decent film.  Nope.  Some laughs, yes, but the rest was boring and really had nothing to offer the film going public.  Review here.

7.            Minions

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                I really like the Despicable Me movies, especially the second one, so I was looking forward to this one.  Very disappointed as I took my son to see it and through more than one scene was very uncomfortable that other children were in the theater with us.  There were too many scenes that seemed really out of place for a “kids” movie.  Review here.

6.            Poltergeist

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                Trailer looked kind of freaky, movie was not.  Review here.

5.            While We’re Young

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                This was like watching a, needs a strong backhand to the face hipster lecturing you on right and wrong while twirling his Snidely Whiplash mustache.  I think it bothered me even more when it had its upside-down ending where truth, which was preached to be the true constant, doesn’t really matter after you think about it and a better message comes out of a lie…you know…like the evils of liberalism.  Review here.

4.            The Good Dinosaur

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                I remember seeing concept art for this film years before its release and thinking it looked good.  It wasn’t.  It was slow and extremely boring.  Review here.

3.            Sisters

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                Tina Fey has only been tolerable for one movie.  This isn’t that movie.  Still don’t understand why modern day feminitwits think movies where girls talk and act gross is empowering.  Ah well, waste investors’ money I guess.

2.            Slow West

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                One of the best looking films of the year was a horrid mess.  So boring and a waste of lots of talent.  Review here.

1.            The Cobbler

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                If Adam Sandler movies were like this, I’d agree with every one of the haters that he sucks.  Thankfully they aren’t.  But this…this was so, so bad.  Review here.

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Retro Review: ‘Eyes Wide Shut’

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                Not many will remember this movie outside of the history behind it.  Its director, Stanley Kubrick, died just days after turning in the final cut under odd circumstances.  The two stars of the movie, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman were the “it” couple in Hollywood at the time and could seemingly do no wrong.  Then there was the marketing that gave the impression that this is just an overly sexualized film that glorifies sex for shock value.  The trailer for the film was really hypnotizing and being a fan of interesting and beautiful cinematography I immediately wanted to see it.  When I did, I was bored, extremely bored and found no value in the film.  Recently I have been watching Kubrick’s films and remembered loving the trailer for this film and thought I’d give it another chance.  I came out with a very different view than my original assessment.

                Dr. Bill (Tom Cruise) and Alice (Nicole Kidman) Hartford have a seemingly happy marriage.  Bill is a very successful doctor who treats rich patients and Alice is a stay at home mom and their lives seem idyllic.  At a party we are shown that not all may be happy in the house when both seem to be tempted by people that are not their spouses but do not follow through with anything.  That night they have an intimate conversation about their marriage and Bill assures Alice that he is utterly faithful to her, trusts her and loves her.  Alice confesses to having a fantasy about a sailor on where of their vacations years earlier where she made a conscious decision that if the sailor would have her, she would leave the family and old life behind with no problems.  This sends Bill out into the world where he tries to deal with what his wife told him.  He meets desperate mourners, prostitutes, criminals, an old college buddy and a secret society of masked people whom he sneaks into only to have his life and the life of his family threatened.  Bill deals with an extreme array of emotions in trying to cope with a wife that could easily leave him for nothing more than a one night stand.

                First off the film looks striking, from the muted color schemes to the production design and wardrobe.  Once again, Kubrick gave us another film where you could taste his obsession with getting every aspect of his movie right.  The acting may not be the best from everyone involved, but I don’t think that was Kubrick’s focus here because a lot of the actors give muted performances.  It seems like he wanted to give the impression that people are used to the sin around them and are numb to it.  It takes a minute to get used to it, but it was a very interesting decision that works to the films benefit.

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                Yes it does have explicit sexuality and nudity in the film, but nothing that you can’t easily fast forward through without losing important plot points.  One thing continued to come to my mind throughout the film, Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan.  Pilgrims was an allegory of the Christian life shown through the eyes of one individual who goes from first becoming a Christian, through trials and temptations to the end of the victorious journey of faith.  Eyes Wide Shut and Pilgrims don’t seem to match if you just go off the trailer, but once I saw the film, I couldn’t think of anything else comparable.  Tom Cruise’s character has not found Christ, let’s get that out of the way, but what you have is his journey to see what kind of man he is to himself and his family.  He gets into numerous odd and tempting situations, some of his own drive and others by coincidence.  He is either thwarted from doing something bad or he decides that he mustn’t, for no matter how hurt he may be by his wife, he cannot let himself hurt her back.  In the end, he forgives her and her response, though vulgar, would seem to show they will become closer.

                If you are a fan of Kubrick’s and interesting stories, this one is for you.  Lots of naked people though, so, careful.

3 stars out of 4

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Review: ‘The Martian’

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                Ridley Scott hasn’t had that great of a decade.  With practically failure after failure, from Robin Hood to Exodus: Gods and Kings there were only two films, American Gangster and Prometheus that were worth going back to.  So I guess what he needed to do was to pick a really popular science fiction (his main genre) book and see if he can regain that Ridley magic that came out in his earlier works.  Did it work?

                In 2035 a group of astronauts are on the planet Mars to study the best way of terraforming it.   A severe dust storm has made the crew need to launch of the planet back to the main ship and head back to earth.  The problem is that the crew believes that one of their own, Mark Watney (Matt Damon) died in the storm.  Mark did not die in the storm but somehow survived and must find a way to survive on the planet until someone comes to rescue him.  Back at NASA, a group of scientists are trying to figure out how or even if they can get him back before it’s too late.

                Like many of Ridley’s movies, the film looks great.  The way in which he was able to create an engrossing film that draws you in almost immediately was excellent.   All acting was great as well save one actor, Donald Glover.  He just seemed really out of place in this film.  The rest of the cast, the ones interacting with other characters, really have a chemistry that shows the comradery that is needed in a film like this.  It helped as well that they were using a terrific script that tells a great story of mans continued desire to fight for life.  The pacing of the film is good as well and makes the film stroll along with barely a hiccup.

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                If there is anything glaringly wrong with this film it has to do with two potential story points which would have made the story more interesting and the audience’s connection to Damon’s character more essential.  There are no scenes of either Damon’s character breaking down in desperation and a desire to give up or going through an existential crisis that questions the universe around him.  When you take into account Scott’s atheism, it makes sense why that may not be there, but as far as character and story goes it is very noticeable that in a way, the main character only has a few obstacles to overcome, which he does, somewhat easily.  Granted, I am not saying this fake characters experience would have been a cake walk, but there was no real drama as to how he changes to became better than he was at the beginning.  When he finally gets back home, why should the audience care?  You do not feel his utter loneliness in any way or see him even grow as a character to someone we admire.

                Great time at the movies with a surprisingly good amount of humor that works.

3 stars out of 4

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Best Films of 2015

               As 2015 began to wind down I once again found myself thinking I wouldn’t be able to get 10 movies that made up the best of the year.  Thankfully once again I was wrong and ended up having to spend some time really thinking through which ones would make the list.  Here we go:

10.          Inside out

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                Yet another triumph for Pixar with one of the more imaginative films in years.  Comedy, solid.  Story, solid.  Cast, solid.  Animation, solid.  Great family film that puts the emphases on the importance of family.  Review here.

9.            Cinderella

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                For me, Cinderella was a surprisingly great movie.  It kept the charm and innocence of the early Disney films most of us grew up with.  I was not expecting that, but yet another rewrite that makes some idiotic feminitwit spin.  Instead we get a great story, a film that is visually very appealing and some really good performances, especially from Lily James.  Outside of another movie on this list, it was also one of the cleanest movies of the year.  Review here.

8.            Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

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                It may not have been as good as Ghost Protocol but it delivered on the promise of some great stunts and action.  Tom Cruise and the rest of the cast are all still good and, for me at least, are not getting old.  The new comers also fit well.  Another fun addition that makes you highly anticipate the next one.  Review here.

7.            Kingsman: The Secret Service

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                Matthew Vaughn is a great director who is able to tackle any genre and give it his own special spin.  His latest in Kingsman took on the early goofy spy films mixed with James Bond and made a fun and entertaining improvement.  Full of some great and inventive action and in your face politically incorrect hits, Kingsman does it all.  Even make Colin Firth into an action star.  Review here.

6.            Ant Man

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                Once again Marvel was able to bring to the screen with great success one of their lesser known characters.  Paul Rudd was pitch perfect casting and the addition of Michael Douglas to the Marvel universe is a truly welcome one.  Mixing super heroes and heist genres together was a stroke of brilliance and the humor never seems to miss.  Review here.

5.            Ex Machina

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                One of the better non-actiony science fiction movies came in the form of Ex Machina.  A film that made the viewer ponder what it means to be human while also pulling together a great cast and some fantastic cinematography.  I love films that have me thinking about what they mean days after viewing them.  Review here.

4.            Creed

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                This one was a big and a very pleasant surprise for me.  This was another film with a phenomenal cast and possibly the best performance Stallone ever gave.  Everything that would have been another boring cliché, feels like there is a new twist to it that draws you in.  Add to that some of the best boxing scenes in years and this is one of the better sports movies out today.  Review here.

3.            The Revenant

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                This is the second best looking film of the year.  It is so well crafted that you are able to feel the cold, pain and tension through the screen as the story unfolds.  It also put yet another notch in the already very successful careers of DiCaprio and Hardy.  Though the story itself doesn’t seem to be based in what really might have happened, the rest of the film seems really historically accurate in its portrayal of people.  Review here.

2.            The Peanuts Movie

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                I had zero desire to see this film because I believed that Hollywood would mess it up and make it a politically correct, liberal piece of garbage.  Nope.  I was wrong…very wrong.  In one of the cleanest movies in a very long time, The Peanuts Movie, not only delivered on paying homage to what has come before, but had an incredibly upbeat and positive story.  See this with your kids!  Review here.

1.            Mad Max: Fury Road

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                This film delivered on everything promised in that first Comic Con trailer.  It is a great film that who could watch on mute and still get the story and revel in the beauty of the cinematography.  If you haven’t seen this yet and you are a fan of fun movies that look incredible and in no way disappoint, stop reading this and go watch it.  Review here.

Honorable Mentions:  John Wick, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Black Mass, Jurassic World, Run All Night, the Martian

Which ones did you like?

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Movies to Look Forward to in 2016

                As I finish the polish on my best of 2015, I will go ahead and share those movies I most look forward to in 2016.  Once again it was an easy list to make as once again there is another year with so many films that I may see but not really excited about.

10.          X-Men: Apocalypse – May 27th

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                        This would have been higher up on the list if a few things didn’t happen last year to bring it down to the bottom.  One came from the anti-Christian bigot playing a pivotal role and then there was the underwhelming trailer.  What still gives it some merit is that it stars Oscar Isaac and most of the returning cast and once again directed by Singer.  I am hoping that it will deliver what the first two in this trilogy did, good storytelling, acting and fun action.

9.            John Wick 2 – TBD

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                John Wick was an extremely fun surprise last year.  It is one of the more interesting and exciting action films in almost a decade and it gave something for Keanu Reeves to do beside look wooden.  He did a great job as did everyone else involved and I look forward to seeing what comes next.

8.            13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Bengazi – January 15th

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                I still remember being mocked on Facebook that I was even outraged that our current dirtbag in chief decided he wouldn’t leave the campaign trail even for more than a few minutes to recognize that once again our country was attacked.  The administration lied and continues to lie to this day about that horrible night.  It is extremely surprising that this film was even made, with the men who were there being involved in the making.  I’m hoping Michael Bay will be able to capture the heroism of our military as Peter Berg does.

7.            Jack Reacher: Never Go Back – October 21st

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                This is another sequel to a surprisingly good action film on this list.  I think Tom Cruise is as much an action star and box office draw as he was decades ago.  I look forward to the expanded universe here and no doubt some nail biting action.  Here’s to hoping they have more interesting bad guys like the first one.

6.            Deadpool – February 12th

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                I still remember the rumblings of this film while Origins: Wolverine was being released.  After that film was a complete dud, it vanished from sight.  Then a leaked test film for the character came to the internets and all the excitement came back.  So much so that the studio picked up on it and hired people that loved the character and here we are only a month or so away from its release.  Humor and action look spot on, I’m hoping for something new and fun for this genre.

5.            Captain America: Civil War – May 6th

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                Here is the second one on this list where I was underwhelmed after seeing the trailer.  Regardless I have faith in three things going into this film.  First, Robert Downey Jr. is there, so added awesomeness.  The Russo Brothers continue their collaboration with Marvel to most likely give us another good political thriller surrounded by super heroes.  Lastly, Paul Rudd.  Then of course, they can’t ruin the epic battle scenes expected, can they?

4.            The Magnificent Seven – September 23rd

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                There isn’t even a cast photo for this one yet, but just loving the first one, not disagreeing with a remake and the cast involved and I am all on board.  The western genre is one I miss and love seeing new ones come along, unless you are called Slow West.  I’m expecting great things here.

3.            Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice – March 25th

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                Most visitors familiar with site would have expected this would be number one, and normally you would be right.  Funnily enough, there were two other movies that beat it out of the top spot.  The trailers look decent, although the new one did give me an “oh no” vibe, I still think this will be a great film.  I look forward to seeing how it all plays out.

2.            The Nice Guys – May 20th

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                Shane Black has been around for a very long time.  He wrote some phenomenal screenplays, looking at you Lethal Weapon and even one of the best modern detective films to date in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.  After making waves with Iron man 3, a film I really enjoyed, he is back to his detective/crime films with this one.  Gathering a great cast and his trademark humor and wit and this film looks downright fantastic.  I waited in great anticipation for a trailer and it did not disappoint when released.  Really looking forward to this.

1.            Suicide Squad – August 5th

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                Fury was my favorite film in 2014.  In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen anything David Ayer was a part of that I didn’t love.  After the first trailer left me practically speechless, I can say this is the movie to beat for me in 2016.  The tone is perfect and the cast looks perfect as well.  August cannot get here fast enough.

What are movies are you looking forward to in 2016?

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Review: ‘The Revenant’

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               Last year, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu directed one of my favorite films of the year, Birdman.  It was not just creatively brilliant; it looked incredible, garnered great performances from the cast and actually had a point for the audience to ponder.  He chose to follow it up with a very loosely based on a maybe but probably not true story of a man seeking revenge for those who left him behind in the harsh and freezing forest to fend for himself.  Using what reports have claimed to be very harsh conditions for a film set, Inarritu finished his film and promised to give a realistic retelling of a true man versus nature story.  How did it turn out?

                Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a frontiersman hired by the military to help track and trap animals for their furs.  After an Akirara Indian attack that leaves many men dead and many furs left behind, a small band of survivors begin their trek back to their fort.  While by himself in the wilderness, Glass is savagely attacked by a Grizzly bear and soon after found by the others and taken care of.  When a difficult terrain leaves them unable to carry Glass further, two men, Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) and Bridger (Will Poulter) and Glass’s son agree to stay behind to keep him save or bury him if he dies.  Fitzgerald doesn’t want to do this so after Glass’s son finds him trying to kill his father, Fitzgerald quickly dispatches the son and leaves Glass in a shallow grave for dead.  Glass must now try to survive the harsh environment and his injury’s to search for the man who killed his son.

                If you enjoyed the visual presentation of Birdman like I did, you will see an improvement on beautiful camerawork and that film was almost perfect.  As the movie unrolls you feel the icy cold through the screen and the beauty of the locations pop off the screen.  Inarritu’s continued decision to have many long takes continues to impress here.  Many long takes linger at an uncomfortable length many times on long shot after long shot of violence and tension and it works for the film.  Add to that terrific performances from the entire cast and you have an incredible experience.  I do not think this is DiCaprio’s best role that would either go to his performances in The Wolf of Wall Street or Django Unchained but he commits nearly perfectly hear.  Hardy, once again, gives a phenomenal performance as the bad guy here and creates yet another terrific character.  He oozes evil and callousness, like most atheists, to the level that you hate him as much as DiCaprio’s character does.  Poulter and Domhnall Gleeson are given enough materiel to create interesting characters as well.

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                The subject of revenge has made some very good movies, from Death Wish to Man on Fire.  When handled well, like Man on Fire, they can be thought provoking and come to a satisfying conclusion.  Most of the time, especially in recent years, its just about gunning down or torching to death those who wronged you with no real desire to have the audience ponder reasons and or ramifications of characters actions.  The Revenant is a film that takes its subject seriously and seeks to show the human side, most often evil and violent, of making sense of what is revenge and what is justice.  While Dicaprio’s character is justified in his desire, he is forced to come to a conclusion to whether he will be as evil as the man who killed his son or if he is to let vengeance “be from God.”  The climactic scene is both tense and well-acted with dialogue that seems to be asking the audience if they see the difference.

                On a side note, I found it refreshing that there is no whitewashing of what some Indian tribes did and were capable of.  They were as vicious as what liberals will tell you the white man was.  Many destroyed, raped, pillaged, tortured and whipped out other tribes as well as put to death many innocents.  This is glossed over in today’s classroom.  Yet, in the same film it shows some who were as compassionate and peaceful as the settlers that liberals paint as completely evil.

                This is a very good film that makes you think long after you have left the theater.  A very strong warning though to any with weak stomachs, the violence here is graphic and very uncomfortable to watch so be aware going in.  Also, read an even better review from Brian Godawa here.

3 and ½ stars out of 4

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Little Buddy Review: ‘Inside Out’

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                Pixar is awesome and it’s very hard to dispute that.  Even its most hated if not underrated film Cars 2 was fun in my mind.  That film gave us another children’s film that championed bravery, loyalty, friendship and showed the theme of doing what you can with the skills you have to overcome an obstacle, especially when no one seems to believe in you.  Pixar has always made an effort to draw the audience in with great characters and story telling.  They did so by tugging on the heart strings of the viewers, so it was only a matter of time they would think to make a movie surrounded by the emotions they so effortlessly affected in the hearts of their fans.  Would it pay off?

                From the moment Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) was born she had a very strong emotion and that was Joy (Amy Poehler).  Quickly enough, just behind Joy was Sadness (Phyllis Smith) and as the years strolled on three more emotions, Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) would join the two in helping lead Riley’s thoughts.  After many successful years of joy being Riley’s prime emotion has led Riley’s life.  After her family moves her across the country to a new place with new challenges, Sadness seems to be having more of an influence.  Joy and Sadness soon find themselves in unfortunate spot that makes them have to work together to get back to the controls for Riley’s feelings.  This leaves the other three to try and figure out how Joy would have led.

                As is the case with each and every addition from Pixar (yes even the horrid The Good Dinosaur) this film continues their streak of adding realism to characters as well as the surrounding environments in its animation.  One of the big draws for this film is the voice cast, each and every one of which is pitch perfect.  Stealing the show is Phyllis Smith who brings layers to a character that could have been generic and unsympathetic.  Poehler is fun as Joy and it is noticeable how much fun she had with the character.  Hader, Black and Kaling could have had more to do which would have been welcome, but the screen time they have jumps off the screen with their humor.  Another highlight of the film is Dias and her reserved yet very poignant portrayal of a hurting young girl searching for answers.  One of the best characteristics of the film is the imagination behind creating the world inside the brain.  Each and every aspect makes you pause for a second and say to yourself how clever each is.

INSIDE OUT

                Inside Out has got to be one of the more original movies released in quite some time.  And Pixar has again made a film that affects the audience throughout its run-time.  The genius behind the film, besides its creativity and humor, is the depiction of the driving force we have with in us which can be marred by emotion.  Showing a child growing up amid dealing with constantly changing emotions suddenly will be an instant connection with every audience member, especially adults.  We remember this experience of what our emotions would do to create who we would become.  When we see the inside of adult’s heads we see that in the end it is one emotion that leads us.  For the mother sadness, for the father anger and so on.  I am not saying that our emotions are in control of us, that would go against my Christian worldview, but I am saying the simple way the creators are trying to make sense of our experiences and how we react to them was a smart one.

                This is a great film for the entire family and I didn’t find anything overly offensive to warn you of.  Pixar did it again.

3 and ½ stars out of 4

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Quick Reviews

Quick Reviews

                Here’s a list of a few recent viewings I have gone through lately that I didn’t or didn’t want to review for whatever reason.  Hopefully I can give a short review that may peak your interests to either watch or pass on a film you might have been considering.  There can be a mix of newer/older movies with a few insights.

The Hateful Eight

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                Tarantino has been around for several decades and has made 8 films, one which was a misstep, Death Watch, one that was boring, Jackie Brown and the rest have been really good to great.  Count The Hateful Eight as his first almost great film.  It looks gorgeous in practically every shot and I want to see it again just to see the magnificence on what he decided to do on film with the 70mm idea.  The acting across the board is on spot with the odd exception of Michael Madsen.  The stand out for me was Walton Goggins, who has been great in everything since the Shield and I hate to say it because he’s a racist dirtbag, but Samuel L Jackson gave his best performance to date here.  You are not going to get inspired by this film or leave with a skip in your step, but darned if it doesn’t look and sound good.  This is Tarantino’s most graphically violent film, so be warned on that.     3 stars out of 4

Spectre

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                After hearing for weeks nothing but bad things about this movie I was very reluctant to see it.  But, needing movies to see and possibly review I went to this one and was pleasantly surprised that it was actually pretty good.  Granted it could be because of my low expectations going in, but I had fun with it all the same.  Going in expecting the horridness of Quantum of Solace and getting something just short of Skyfall was cool.  Daniel Craig is comfortable in the role and this turn he tries a little more humor which works to the films favor.  Limiting the bad guy was also an oddly good choice because it ups the tension when needed.  Some good action and great looking locations add to the film.  If you are a fan of the new Bond films like I am (I hated everything that came before), then this one is worth a look.  3 stars out of 4

Legend

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                Tom Hardy increasingly gets higher on my favorite actor list as the years move forward.  With gangster films being some of my favorite, seeing him staring in one where he plays the evil Kray twins in 1960’s England was a no brainer.  Third film on this list that looks great as it looks like it came right out of the sixties.  Wardrobe, music, cars, everything fits perfectly and suck you into the world that was the East End of London during this scary and violent time.  Hardy’s turn as the completely nuts Ronnie Kray is the best part of the film and you can add that performance to the growing list of characters Hardy plays that you struggle to understand when he speaks.  The films focus is mostly on Reggie Kray and his desire to keep both his “business” and brother together while seeing everything around him slowly crumble.  Throw in a mostly good supporting cast and this is one of the better recent gangster films in the last decade.   Not surprising is that they kept out the part where Reggie Kray became a devout Christian years before his death.  After seeing what he does in the movie, that bit of redemptive info would have been something to note.  3 stars out of 4

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Review: ‘Star Wars The Force Awakens’

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                I’m not sure there is a man from my generation that did not instantly fall in love with Star Wars and its sequels right away.  Yes, there were some things wrong with them, looking at you Ewoks, but overall this was an almost perfect franchise in our eyes.  So it was no surprise when the announcement of three additional movies coming out that showed us how Darth Vader became the Sith lord he was.  We should have known better, but that first teaser trailer was incredible.  We should have known because by Return of the Jedi, creator George Lucas was making decisions based on toy sales.  As the new trilogy unfolded, we were left empty and regretting our initial excitement.  Many years later, a better company would take the reins from the man who ruined his creation and would give it to a much more talented man named J.J. Abrams.  We were rightly cautious and we watched closely through the development from that first cast photo to each and every bit of released info from plot details to official production scenes.  Did the final product have us welcoming back on old friend or further tarnish the original trilogy even more?

                Many decades after the second Death Star’s destruction, the fight still continues between good and evil.  The Empire may no longer exist but in its place is the First Order led by a mysterious figure and his Dark Side enforcer, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).  Heroes like Luke Skywalker have turned into myths and for a lot of people there still seems like there is no hope.  A former Stormtrooper, Finn (John Boyega) escapes the First Order but not before he rescues a resistance fighter pilot, Poe (Oscar Isaac).  Finn quickly finds himself teamed up with a hopeless scavenger named Rey (Daisy Ridley) and her new found robot, BB-8, who holds a secret.

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                Force Awakens is not only better than those horrid prequels it is the second best looking of all the films.  Abrams brought in the right amount of nostalgic magic that captured us in the originals and mixed it with new thrills.  There are some classic shots (even some taken from films outside the franchise) that will stay with you long after you’ve left the theater.  The new cast is good but not terrific unfortunately.  The best additions being Boyega and Isaac, both of whom give some of the best laughs of the film as well as being in some of the better action scenes.  Ridley and Driver though are a mixed bag.  Ridley isn’t given much to do here that makes sense (more on that later) and seems constantly trying to keep up with the cast around her.  Driver is really good, until he is unmasked and all of a sudden you don’t fear the odd lightsaber wielding bad guy.  Of course the best of the lot is given to us by none other than Harrison Ford who slips back into one of his iconic characters like he never left it.  The biggest disappointment for me was in how meh Andy Serkis’ performance was.  I am hoping that both he and Ridley will be given something better next round.

                All the same themes are here from the original trilogy, namely bravery, courage in the face of destruction, heroism and sacrifice.  It also has the stupid new age crap that if it wasn’t for cool force powers would be perceived as silliness, which it is.  You care for these characters regardless and that was always Star Wars strong suit, you cared what happened to the people you were watching.  Regrettably, there are three issues that hold the film back from being  a four star movie for me:

Unneeded Feminist Tripe

                There was ZERO reason to create the character of Rey the way she ends up on film.  We are hit over the head multiple times with lines that come across as “I don’t need your help stupid man”.  In one fight, there is a completely laughable moment that, not only was she able to keep her own against a much bigger and more trained man, but she closed her eyes for longer than could have been possible and held him at bay the entire time.  Right.  Leia Organa was a perfect example of a heroin and they missed the point there in adding this stuff.  She was feminine, needed and accepted help while also being able to keep her own in a gun fight.  She didn’t need to keep telling off other characters that anything you can do I can do better.

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Leave the Mask on Bad Guy

                For me it was a big question if the villain, Kylo Ren, would even be menacing let alone a great addition to the franchise.  The opening scene was incredible and introduced him well.  Then he kind of turns into a little bit of a whiner (not Hayden Christensen level thank goodness).  Then he takes off the mask and you see a well groomed hipster in a black robe.  Maybe don’t do that again.

Matrix Downloadable Force Abilities

                Granted Luke trained for a few days(if you don’t adhere to the condensed theory of the training/Cloud City which states it was longer) with a little green guy to become a Jedi master.  Now we have a character that within a day, with no training or even an understanding of the power can now masterfully wield a lightsaber (with ZERO battle training unlike Finn’s character) and can do forcey things.  Luke didn’t even fight someone until the end of the second movie.  Takes you right out of the movie.

                Those are decent sized problems for the movie and some other reviewers I have read have much more, but this movie still delivered on what was promised when it was yanked from Lucas’s hands.  Not one person I went with or anyone I have talked to who have seen it had issues what so ever, but I look for these things, just letting you know.

                This is still a good time at the movies and you will smile most of it.

3 stars out of 4

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Review: ‘Creed’

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                This film was nowhere on my radar for most of this year.  That is a rarity for me, because I usually know something about most movies coming down the pipeline.  I think while perusing upcoming movies for the year I might want to see and review, I noticed a name that I recognized…Creed.  Now it was one of two things in my mind.  It either was a possible movie on a historical Christian creed (highly doubtful, but you never know) or a prequel of Rocky about Apollo Creed.  I was wrong on both and realized it was something better.  Rocky was going to train Apollo’s son and Sylvester Stallone was going to be Rocky Balboa again.  Outside of part five, the Rocky movies are some of my favorite sports movies of all time.  Rocky Balboa was a great movie that gave the character a proper ending and I didn’t know if we needed to see the character again, but I was excited to find out if it would sully that films ending or add to it in a positive way.

                Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) has a strong desire and feeling that he should be a boxer.  After learning at an early age that his father was one of the greatest boxers ever, Apollo Creed, his desire to box cannot let him go.  After quitting his promising job and getting turned down for training at the gym of his father he decides to move to Philadelphia to train full time.  He quickly meets up with Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) to ask him to train him to become a great boxer.  Although initially hesitant, Balboa is drawn to Adonis and agrees to train him.

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                  Star Wars: The Force Awakens is not the only nostalgic film released this year that will make fans of the original franchise happy.  Creed is a very welcome addition to the Rocky franchise and Michael B. Jordan is a great casting choice to be added to it.  Although he is playing a cookie cutter character, he brings an energy to it that most actors wouldn’t.  It is fun to see him grow as a character and see the changes as the movie progresses.  All the other cast is great as well but the film belongs to Sylvester Stallone.  He steals every scene he is in and shows that he isn’t the dumb action star from Cobra, but an actor with another admirable performance.  He still has Balboa as a sweet and gentle tough guy who cares for everyone he lets into his life.  One of the best characters in cinema gets another great goodbye with a wonderfully directed film.  The choice of Ryan Coogler to go with an unflashy boxing movie was a good one.  His decision to show the fights scenes in such an up close and personal way gives the audience the uncomfortable feeling of being in a boxing match.

                At the stories center is the typical Rocky Balboa theme.  You know that you are meant for something, but you are not sure how to go about getting it but you do have some idea.  To ask for help can show courage and that is what Adonis seeks through Balboa.  Along with that is the need Adonis has for a father figure, one that he was denied because of the death of his father.  Both characters need each other and to see it grow and prosper into true familial feelings is great to watch unfold.  At the center of the story is family and the need for it and how it can nurture character as well as comfort in knowing someone cares for you as you care for them.  Not too shabby.

                This is another wonderful addition to the franchise and should be seen by anyone who loves these films or any sport film.  Be warned though that this a more visually violent film than the ones before and may make some people uncomfortable.

3 and ½ stars out of 4

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