Displaying Category: Rating_2

The Mummy

The Mummy ticketstubI understand Universal wants to bring back the monster movies and get some new old franchises going, because what we all need right now are some more reboots. Ugh. This movie, in fact, opens with a "Dark Universe" logo, the triumphant opening to a whole new world of old monsters! That would almost be exciting if this movie were at all interesting.

I believe there were several miscalculations with this movie, the greatest among them was making it impossible for the audience to empathize with any of the characters. The lead, Tom Cruise's Nick, is a selfish thief who doesn't care about anyone else (yup, that was three times redundant). The mummy, Ahmanet, is a power hungry murderer who made a deal with the Devil (they really used that term) and murdered her own family. Nick's friend Chris doesn't have a spine and just follows Nick around like a lonely puppy. Russel Crowe as Dr. Jekyll (uh, yup) behaved like people just don't matter compared to the importance of his cause to study and then destroy evil, in that order. There was also the beautiful archaeologist that Nick inexplicably falls in love with. Besides having virtually no personality, I'm not faulting her, it's just there was no chemistry or even apparent attraction between them. So tell me, who do I root for?

Was the story interesting at least? Not really. Basically, Ahmanet needs to get a ceremonial dagger and a magic jewel for the hilt and stab Nick with it to give the Devil Nick's human body. Now, everyone shrug along with me... very good. So why watch this movie? Effects were good enough, but didn't make it interesting. Look at the old monster movies, they had effects, but I don't think that's what made them compelling. I actually don't know what made those old movies compelling, they never worked for me, but somehow, a big studio wants to bring them back, so here were are with this mess. I can't wait to not look forward to the entire Dark Universe series.


Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter ticketstubReturning to the story started by the first Resident Evil movie, The Final Chapter opens with a ten minute retconning sequence catching the viewer up on everything that's happened up till now, starting now. There's actually more backstory here than we ever got in any previous movie, which is nice, but it starts exposing nagging plot holes that grow to monstrous proportions by the movie's conclusion.

TFC picks up at the end of the previous movie as Alice scavenges the wastes of Washington D.C. The Red Queen tells Alice she has 48 hours to save humanity, and the crazy artificial countdown to doomsday begins ticking. This little bit of story and a couple mysteries that I guess need answering are the scaffold around which a breathless stream of action sequences play out. The action isn't bad if you can tolerate the over-the-top sort of fighting we've come to expect from RE movies. I found it loud and the jump-cut editing made it difficult for me to follow what was happening. The unstoppable evil commander from several previous movies, Wesker, had a relatively small and inconsequential part in this movie simply relaying commands from the actual evil leader to the Red Queen. "Lock down the Hive!" he tells her... three times.

In the end, the resolution of the series was fine and this movie at least had a story that tried to get back to where the series started (even if bears little resemblance to the source material), but I found the previously mentioned plot holes to be too distracting for me to buy into what they were trying to sell me.


Assassin's Creed

Assassin's Creed ticketstubIntensely intense intensity! This movie is working so hard at being serious and heavy and intense that it feels like it's in the way of itself. I would not call the Assassin's Creed franchise light-hearted by any stretch of the imagination, but these are games and there's a fair bit of unreality built into them. This movie, though, is just so into itself with long stares and intensely spoken dialog, none of the characters felt real to me. There was no... humanity... anywhere to be seen, even though the plot is to save humanity's free will. And speaking of free will, we're told several times that those are the stakes, but there's no demonstration of those stakes anywhere. No scene showing a test of this power or a suggestion of how this would affect large populations. Just intense talk about how, if we take away free will, there won't be any violence. This spoken by a member of an intensely violent Illuminati-like organization. So there's never a concrete sense of what the stakes are in all this. We've got Michael Fassbender doing some Assassin's Creed style assassinating, and that's fun to watch, but all this stuff that kind of works in a video game that isn't real, doesn't seem to work quite as well in a movie that isn't real. When people start doing some of the super-human moves that work in the games, but in the real world, the need for wires or CG becomes apparent and that kind of pushed me out the movie a bit. By the end of the movie, the action picks up, but I've already lost track of what's going on. There are *gasp* reveals, but because of people's accents and the action going on all around, I don't quite follow what those reveals are.

I understand all we really want out of an Assassin's Creed movie are some sick fights and rooftop chases, and we certainly get some of that in this movie, but the story seemed flimsy and the intensity of the acting and dialog didn't match the mostly abstract gravity of the plot.


Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies ticketstubPride and Prejudice and Zombies tries to present a 19th century England where there's been a zombie outbreak, and also Pride and Prejudice is happening. Of course, we've all seen a bazillion zombie outbreak movies, but most take place in modern times, so seeing how this rather significant issue is addressed in the 1800's is refreshing. I liked seeing the machines of war and the defensive measures employed like a giant wall around London surrounded by a giant moat. There was also a sense of history to this world when characters would describe "the second battle of Kent" and the like. Unfortunately, the rest of it felt like an awkward mash-up of two things that don't easily fit together, i.e. Pride and Prejudice, and zombies.

Classism is a big part of Pride and Prejudice, and that's a big part of this movie as well. As you might expect, zombies are the lower classes, the farmers, orphans, servants, and peasantry. The wealthy go to balls and have banquets and boast over whether it's better to train one's martial arts (for zombie killing) in Japan or China. What wasn't clear to me is how an economy or even a society can function when the peasants (who pay the taxes and grow the food) are all zombies. Even the wealthy estates were regularly infiltrated by zombies. I think all three of the balls (the type where there is dancing) portrayed in the movie were ended abruptly when zombies attacked. I was confused as to how the zombie outbreak has been going on for years, yet people are so routinely unprepared. They don't post sentries or have patrols or sufficient defenses. Indeed, it's clearly a plot device to get characters moving and interacting and a way to promote the romantic relationships, which instead of being built on witty repartee, are instead cultivated in combat prowess.

Much of the writing felt awkward and forced in the fashion of let's just tack "zombie" on the end of half the lines, it'll probably be fine. The plot was familiar, but left battered by the addition of zombies. The acting was generally adequate, but at times made impossible by absurd writing brought on by the zombie mash-up. The one exception was Matt Smith as Parson Collins, who was not a likable character, but presented an amusing fool who provided delightful contrast to everyone else's serious faces. The end of the movie was the most absurd and disappointing. Right after an aborted battle with the bad guy and a chase by the zombie horde, we find ourselves in a wedding. The end. If you stay past the initial few minutes of credits you are treated to a follow-up scene that basically reminds you "Remember that big bad guy and his zombie horde thing that we never finished up? Well, it's still happening and we aren't going to tell you how it goes." The end (again).

So the point of this movie wasn't the zombies, it was the romance...except the zombie plotline was sooooo much more entertaining than this bullshit forced and awkward romantic storyline that seemed completely dependent on zombies to prop it up. Nope. No thank you. No.


Point Break

Point Break ticketstubStunts. FBI...bullshit bullshit bullshit. Spirituality. Stunts. Picnic. FBI bullshit. Stunts. That's it, folks. The stunts are clearly impressive, the story is clearly a delivery system for said stunts, the rest of the "plot" doesn't make any sense and seems like a bullshit way to explain these crazy stunts. Other than the impressiveness of the stunts, I can't say there's anything here to enjoy. Not the writing, or the relationships, or the spiritual message, or even the action (not including stunts). I don't remember the original movie, but I'm hoping it's better than this.


The Last Witch Hunter

The Last Witch Hunter ticketstubVin Diesal stars as a big burly guy who kills witches and is then cursed to live forever just as he kills the most powerful witch of all. The movie really is as predictable as it seems like it will be from that most basic summary. We flash forward to the present where Diesal's character "Kaulder" (which sounds like people are saying "colder" all the way through) is super rich and struts around like he's a badass throwing out words of wisdom about how to hunt witches to no one because he's the only witch hunter. The only thing that surprised me was the introduction of Rose Leslie, probably better known as Ygritte from Game of Thrones (or Downton Abbey if you're into that). She's still Scottish, and still a bit of a firecracker, and I completely expected her to tell Diesal that he knows nothing, but I delighted in watching her. I'm not even sure she's very good, but she does have a mysterious presence. I thought. So, while Leslie is being all magnetic on screen, Diesal is kind of playing a more talkative Riddick or a less glaring Toretto or pretty much any of his other performances except perhaps for Groot. I'm not sure Diesal does another character, but if you like him, you'll get exactly what you're looking for.

There are "twists" that I am trying to avoid (in quotes because they really are obvious), so I can't tell you how disappointing it is that it all turns out exactly how you think it will. It also leaves itself open for a sequel, which only intrigues me because I'd like to see more of Diesal and Leslie doing witchy huntery stuff.


American Ultra

American Ultra ticketstubThis movie doesn't seem to have any significant or important message. It is pretty much what is explained in the trailers. Dead-end stoner is actually a secret agent, but he doesn't know it. He gets activated and kills all the bad guys. There may be something there about being you or choosing your own path or being more than your programming, but it doesn't matter. It's really just an excuse for some gratuitous violence, of which there is a lot. Of course, it's all over-the-top blood sprays and beatings, but it works in context.

I can't say it's good, and even though it's violent, I found myself a little bored. It definitely doesn't challenge the viewer intellectually and might make a good stoner movie if you're okay with just sitting there and letting things happen on-screen. Topher Grace makes for a super-douchy bad guy. Jesse Eisenberg plays the sensitive stoner well, though quietly. Kristen Stewert ends up kicking some ass. Overall, I'd say the movie is fine, but I think it would have been a lot more enjoyable had it tried to present a message or challenged the audience even a little.


Jupiter Ascending

Jupiter Ascending ticketstubI don't think I'm going to shock anyone by saying this movie isn't very good. It's actually pretty terrible. I went in expecting spaceships and shooting and explosions and while there were lots of all those things, I still came out disappointed with the experience. This is largely the result of bad storytelling, terrible writing and some of the worst casting I've seen since The Phantom Menace. I got the impression some people enjoyed this movie, and while I really wanted to, I never really found myself immersed in any of it on account of everything that was wrong that kept pulling me out of this fantasy world. For example, there were spaceships, but because the design was such that elements of the ships were not physically attached to the hull (usually wings and guns) I kept getting pulled out my ship appreciation to ask how guns not attached to the hull are supposed to get energy or ammunition. I suppose they wanted us to think that this technology is so advanced that it violates pretty much any law of physics because it's, you know, advanced. Then you have this recurring situation where Mila Kunas' character makes bad decisions and needs to be rescued. I shit you not, she is rescued I think four times by Channing Tatum's “Mr. Wise” (teehee) crashing into the room she's currently being held hostage in to perform some last moment save that inevitably leads to a high speed chase resulting in the violent deaths of thousands of innocent bystanders. There is also the obvious Cinderella story in which Kunas' Jupiter suffers a life cleaning the toilets of the elite only to find out she is intergalactic royalty and, by the way, owns Earth the way rich people own exotic cars or vacation estates. She is also incapable of saving herself until forced by circumstance in the end to fight back against awkward whispering Eddie Redmayne, but is still saved by Tatum's wolfboy (team Jacob) Wise and his rocket, sorry, gravity, boots. I just... I can't.


Taken 3

Taken 3 ticketstubLiam Neeson has built a career on playing badass intelligent brawlers. In fact, one of the trailers shown before Taken 3 was for a movie called Run All Night in which he plays a badass trying to protect his son. The problem I'm starting to see is that Liam Neeson is in his 60's now, and I fear isn't quite able to convincingly play the badass roles he's built his career around. I certainly wouldn't say he's gotten too old, but it seems apparent the action is being modified to account for his limitations. Don't get me wrong, he can still bring it, but I felt there may have been some mis-direction to conceal or distract during the more intense hand-to-hand scenes. For example, use of extra jerky hand-held camera work to make tracking the action extremely difficult to cover up how little action there actually is. I don't think these issues really ruined the movie, but they didn't help. The fact is, Taken 3 is basically The Fugitive. Man's wife is killed and he wants to find the person responsible. Cop who figures out what's going on pretty early, still tracks the fugitive like a pit bull with his jaws clamped on the arm of an intruder. Turns out, the perpetrator was someone close to him all along. More than the age issue, it was mostly a problem with the lack of originality. It's not bad, but this chase around LA doesn't feel half as interesting as the international intrigue of the first two Taken movies.



Interstellar ticketstubI feel like I could write pages on why this movie doesn't work for me. I won't go into the individual details or list out all the plot wholes, I'll just say there are many and they kind of broke the movie for me. I understand it's a movie and the focus is on entertaining, not getting the science right, but there are a couple ways to pull that off. You can either be really clear you're making a fun film that plays by its own rules (Star Wars) or play it serious and make it realistic enough that the viewers can feel reasonably comfortable going along with it for the sake of the story. Interstellar pretty much demands that we go along with some pretty batshit crazy ideas with a completely straight face that I simply can't accept. The foundational plot elements end up being holes, and the "twists" are so obvious that I knew what was coming an hour (in movie time) from when they would eventually be revealed.

I should be clear that I was still quite entertained and I was eager to find out how the movie resolved itself, but I frequently found myself mentally throwing up my hands in annoyance at how seriously the movie was taking its insane science. I remember seeing tweets from Neil DeGrasse Tyson around the time the movie was released, basically calling out all the terrible science from Interstellar, and I get that Tyson is a physicist and knows his shit, but I kind of felt Tyson was taking it a bit too seriously. It's a movie, it's supposed to be entertaining, you can let the science go a bit. But now I understand that the problem is with how that science is portrayed. Even though the movie is fiction, people (in broad general terms) will assume the movie science to be true or real. Movies, even fictional ones, have influence on the public consciousness and I think there is some responsibility to make the effort to get it right, or make it clear it's bullshit.

Finally, the robots stole the show. They were kind of goofy, but all of the quality humorous moments and even some of the more touching moments, came out of the robots... and I am not sure that's how it should be.