Believe it or not, I’ve seen every Saw movie made and have enjoyed more of them than I’ve hated. I liked this spinoff sequel, but it’s not exactly good. If you’ve seen one Saw movie you have seen them all. Police attempt to stop the “Jigsaw Killer” or his copycat, while a game goes on in which seemingly random people are tortured to teach each of them a lesson. The police are blundering buffoons and the characters are selfish morons who the killer, or killers, are playing the entire time. The movie ends with a nice twist that ties everything up in a neat bow. Jigsaw, the newest entry in the Saw series, sticks to its franchise formula to a tee.
Do you remember the disaster movies 2012 or San Andreas? I think I remember The Day After Tomorrow but that’s only because of the hilarious South Park television spoof that followed it. I definitely remember Armageddon because the film is so charmingly bad it's amazing. My point is, if you see Geostorm, you’re going to regret it and forget it. Geostorm is a retread of all the “extreme weather” disaster movies that you’ve already seen time and time again. The only difference being that Geostorm is worse, far worse. It’s a sci-fi, mystery, action-disaster movie that just ends up a disaster.
What comes to mind when you think of the 1950s? The Cold War, Sputnik, McCarthyism, post-war prosperity? Cheerful suburban home life following white flight from America’s cities, white picket fences, housewives with towering hairdos, and friendly neighbors? Or maybe we have come to see through the facade of an all-inclusive, welcoming community; a fragile edifice pitched during a time when racism, segregation, and housing district redlining were still running rampant. Suburbicon attempts to tackle these romantic anachronisms of the mid-20th century to reveal the violent torrent of racism and paranoia that lurked underneath, threatening to explode into chaos and social upheaval. Unfortunately, the movie is a god-awful mess that fails to provide any of these topics proper examination.
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After the success of Die Hard, many film studios wanted to recreate the movie’s formula but in a different setting. Thus, we had Die Hard on a bus (Speed), or on a plane (Air Force One). Happy Death Day, much like the fantastic Edge of Tomorrow, similarly opts to mimic the formula of Groundhog Day explicitly and with great relish. Happy Death Day is a slasher flick reminiscent of Scream, with the iconography of Sorority Row or Mean Girls. Jessica Rothe stars as Theresa “Tree” Gelbman, a young woman trapped in a time loop, cursed to repeat her birthday over and over again, having been murdered at the end of that day. Happy Death Day is a fun romp that balances its comedic tone and thriller elements.
The Foreigner is adapted from English author Stephen Leather’s The Chinaman,which he wrote while working for The Times during an IRA bombing campaign. The director, Martin Campbell, a veteran filmmaker, wastes little time getting going, and I appreciated it. We’re introduced to Ngoc Minh Quan (Jackie Chan) and his daughter Fan (Katie Leung) and not 10 minutes go by before the shop Fan enters explodes, killing her instantly. A grief-stricken Quan languishes about his home and business in a daze before leaving his friends behind and vowing to find and punish the people responsible for Fan’s death.
Taylor Sheridan is on a roll. Fresh from writing back-to-back stellar films, Sicarioand Hell or High Water, Sheridan gives us another gem with Wind River. Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen respectively star in Wind River as a U.S. Fish and Wildlife tracker and an FBI agent. They are tasked with tracking a murderer in this meditative thriller set on the frozen landscape of Wyoming.
The Snowman is a thriller with a stellar cast and proudly boasts production by film great Martin Scorsese. Michael Fassbender leads an ensemble cast as detective Harry Hole. Harry grapples with alcoholism and struggles to catch a serial killer across frozen Norway. If you read that and thought, “Hey that sounds like it might be good!” You’re wrong, dead wrong. It's terrible.
The Accountant is basically Rain Man crossed with a Bourne film, taken to its extreme. Ben Affleck stars as Christian Wolff, a high-functioning autistic accountant extraordinaire who deals with some of the most dangerous people on the planet. Unfortunately, The Accountant is a very uneven film, with a solid cast and exciting action sequences, but a clumsy and uneven narrative.
The Deepwater Horizon was a deepwater offshore oil-drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico that experienced a complete catastrophic blowout on April 20th, 2010. This blowout led to one of the worst environmental disasters in human history, and the largest oil spills in United States’ history. Deepwater Horizon is not concerned with analyzing the aftermath of the blowout, the closing of the sea floor oil gusher, or the environmental damage of the oil spill. Deepwater Horizon is a terrific disaster film that focuses on the human element of the people trapped on the Horizon that fateful day. The film also doubles as a scathing indictment of BP and their policies.
The Girl on the Train (2016) is a simple mystery movie based on a book by the same name, both centering on the lives and extramarital affairs of three women and two men in Westchester County, New York. Rachael, (one of the aforementioned women) a divorced and lonely alcoholic, fantasizes about a gorgeous couple she sees while riding the train every day. The woman of that fantasy couple, Megan Hipwell, ends up missing. Amid her drunken blackouts and emotional frailties, Rachael ends up caught in a web of lies and illicit affairs as she struggles to find out the truth of Megan's disappearance.
Robinson Crusoe is a classic literary work written by Daniel Defoe in the early 18th century. The story involves the titular character spending thirty years stranded on a deserted island and has since been adapted dozens of times into other media. The Wild Life is an animated film adapted from Robinson Crusoe, unfortunately, it’s god-awful. The film probably hoped to slip under the radar of late summer releases that generally bomb or go unnoticed by the masses. The Wild Life is a Belgian-French film translated into English and released upon a naive and unsuspecting audience. I, unfortunately, paid good money to see this garbage. You should not.
Would you, Nerve queries, watch as people did stupid and dangerous things for money? Better yet, would you do stupid and dangerous things for money and notoriety? Obviously. Youtube, WorldStarHipHop, Tosh.0, and Ridiculousness are all testament to humanity’s willingness to endanger their own lives for fleeting moments of fame and fortune as well as the insatiable need of others to watch it happen. Nerve combines this dark facet of human nature with portable technology to create the titular game, Nerve, in which players record themselves doing stupid things for money, and watchers pay to watch and dare players to do said stupid things. Nerve has a refreshingly original concept but the movie is kept from being great by several glaring flaws.
Lights Out is another in a series of refreshing horror movies that have been released this year. Lights Out revolves around a dysfunctional family haunted by a malevolent spirit who cannot come into contact with light of any kind. That simple explanation doesn’t do the film justice. While the film isn’t as original as it thinks (see Darkness Falls, a terrible movie), it is a surprisingly good low budget horror film relying on the old ‘stay out of the dark’ trope.
Boy, I bet the creators of Don’t Breathe are kicking themselves that they didn’t get the rights to the nameLights Out, the summer’s other surprisingly good horror/thriller. Still, Don’t Breathe is a simple and evocative title that matches the excellent trailer for the film. Don’t Breathe has a fairly original premise for the home invasion sub-genre: three idiots decide to rob a blind guy, thinking he’ll be easy prey. They quickly realize they messed with the wrong damn blind guy. The tables quickly turn on the idiot thieves and they become trapped The Blind Man’s home while he stalks them. Desperate to survive and escape the prison of their own making, the thieves uncover even more horrifying and disturbing details, while their psychotic blind captor hunts them down.
When I told my friends the latest movie I saw was Morgan, they each responded the same way. “Morgan? What’s that about? I haven’t heard or seen anything about it?” It seems as though Morgan failed in the advertising department which is a shame since more people won’t know how bad this movie was. Morgan is a film about bioengineering a being for less than noble means and SURPRISE, SURPRISE, that turns out to be a pretty terrible idea for everyone involved. Created destroys creator, blah, blah, blah, this movie sucks.
Todd Phillips knows how to make a comedy about man-children who are unwilling or unable to grow up. Old School, The Hangover, and Due Date are all testament to Phillip’s uncanny ability to explore this arrested development. In War Dogs, Phillips attempts to move on to more serious fare, yet he can’t seem to leave behind the comfort of his comedic roots. As a result, War Dogs is a half comedy, and half Lord of War ripoff fused together into something that is neither wholly compelling, nor all that horrible either.
Is there anything Bryan Cranston can’t do? I mean seriously, after appearing as everyone’s favorite meth kingpin, he’s been given a blank check to do whatever he wants. He’s generally starred in terrible dreck the past couple of years like Red Tails, John Carter, Rock of Ages, Total Recall, Godzilla, and Madagascar 3 but everyone gave these a pass; because come on! He is the one who knocks! Besides, he paid his dues for years with Malcolm in the Middle, and all it takes is just one Trumbo to remind us who we’re dealing with. Having said all that Cranston is one of the few good things about The Infiltrator, a boring, clichéd, undercover drug drama.
Kubo and the Two Strings is the fourth picture that stop-motion powerhouse Laika has produced (Coraline, ParaNorman, and The Boxtrolls). While I haven’t seen Coraline, Laika’s past two films were dark tales that pushed the boundaries of what a traditional animated (i.e. a film for children) feature should do. In addition, each was a unique look at vastly different societies and cultural history. ParaNorman masterfully skewed New England culture, history, and folklore, while The Boxtrolls took aim at the extremely different classes in old English society. Kubo and the Two Strings is another fantastic animated feature from the studio. Unlike the last two pictures the film isn’t as dark, but it is a sorrowful adventure tale with an uplifting ending about the power of love, family, and memory.
The Legend of Tarzan is, along with The Shallows, another surprisingly good film of 2016 (and forget what the Tomatometer says). I went into this film with extremely low expectations and The Legend of Tarzan exceeded all of them. That’s not to say that the film is great or even very good, no it's far from it. But The Legend of Tarzan isn’t a terrible either. It's an epic reimagining of Tarzan that stumbles but succeeds in being a satisfying adventure film.
The Purge has always been an extremely in your face franchise. The first Purge, to paraphrase MovieBob, was a brilliant idea that was utterly wasted on a silly home invasion movie. It’s sequel, The Purge: Anarchy, (remember Yahtzee’s formula fromIndependence Day: Regurgence) took the basic idea and setting and turned it into a graphic, intense, revenge action flick. Frank Grillo starred as Sergeant Leo Barnes, part Urban Rambo part Charles Bronson- Death Wish style baby. It was a massive improvement over the original, and par for the course was extremely over the top with its themes and graphic violence. The third sequel, The Purge: Election Year, wisely follows in its predecessor's footsteps by continuing to focus on Leo Barnes and using the extremely tense current (2016) election year as its political backdrop.
One of my favorite critics, Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw, once described a formula for making a good sequel. He said, “A good sequel is one that uses the original as a jumping off point for a whole new story with whole new technology. While a bad sequel merely wallows in the original like a hippo in a vat of liquidized children.” Croshaw was talking about video games, but this formula can be applied to Independence Day: Resurgence and is helpful when explaining why it's a horrific disaster. The film certainly showcases new technology both in the film, and in terms of CGI since the original, and that’s about it. Independence Day: Interstellar Regrets is a terrible travesty.
The Shallows surprised me. I figured it to be a hackneyed star vehicle that showed off Blake Lively’s ample talents while a bunch of brown people die to save her. And while it does feature an attractive starlet who isn’t known for her acting prowess, and the only people who die are brown (it’s because they’re in Mexico guys), The Shallows is much better than a hackneyed star vehicle. The film is a straightforward but strong survival thriller.
The Secret Life of Pets has a simple but rather interesting premise, “What do your pets do when you’re not around?”. The film, made by Illumination Entertainment (Despicable Me, Minions), features an all-star cast led by Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, and Kevin Hart. Despite the potential to be great, The Secret Life of Pets is exactly as it’s billed, a wild adventure through New York City featuring talking animals that’s entertaining but has little else to offer.
Like many children of the 1990’s, I was and have been a huge fan of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson since he wrestled in the WWF (later WWE) and continued to be a fan as he successfully transitioned from wrestler to successful Hollywood actor. Unlike many people today, I am not that big a fan of Kevin Hart. His shtick as a comedian, i.e. “I’m short, black, and get into zany situations because of this” tends to wear thin on me very quickly. Having said that, the comedic duo of Hart & Johnson is (pardon the pun) rock solid in Central Intelligence and the movie as a whole is a funny and entertaining action comedy.
Bryan Singer, the director of X-Men, X-2, and X-Men: Days of Future Past, has returned to direct X-Men: Apocalypse. But unlike the first three, which have flaws but are generally very entertaining and well-regarded superhero films, X-Men Apocalypse is not a good X-Men movie. It’s not even a good movie. That being said, it still has its moments, especially with regard to action sequences. But, the film is too long and is brought down by fundamental problems with its villain, an abundance of characters, and contrived plot threads.
I’ve been a fan of The House Of Mouse most of my entire life. Disney consistently produces fantastic films of wide varieties, from their world class animation to their Marvel Studios Division. Having said that, I am still not on board with these live action reboots of their classic animated films. Maleficentwas so close to being great but was ultimately ruined by its internal problems: a terrible and boring second act and no one else being able to hold a candle to Angelina Jolie’s ferocious presence. And in comparison, Cinderella(2015) was dull and just god awful. The Jungle Book (2016) is the next of these live action remakes, but almost certainly not the last. Despite being the third highest grossing movie of 2016, The Jungle Book is, unfortunately, another misstep in the Disney Animated Remake Live Action Canon (that’s a mouthful).
What the hell happened to Kevin Costner? I ask because Criminal is anything but a return to form. I mean seriously, he was one of the biggest Hollywood stars at one point in time, appearing in such blockbusters as The Untouchables, Dances With Wolves, JFK, and Bull Durham. Lately though his career has taken a sharp nosedive, as he’s starred in critically panned or commercial failures like Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, 3 Days to Kill, and Draft Day. Now Kevin Costner is back on the silver screen with a fantastically generic title, Criminal. The film is a snoozefest of the highest proportion, and fails on almost every level.