Sep 22

Queen of Katwe

Honestly, Queen of Katwe came out kind of a surprise to me, which is mostly surprising as it is a Disney movie.

I mean, shit, the bombed film The Finest Hours which Disney barely cared to promote I was still able to see advertisements for. But queen of Katwe? I just assumed it was some random actual Queen of an African nation. I mean, I recognized actors on the poster and it seemed like it could be about royalty.

But no, this is one of those Disney true inspirational stories. And I completely missed the fact that the poster had a ton of chess pieces on it as silhouettes, just assuming it was a fence. Fuck. A Disney movie about Chess and Africa? What a brilliant idea to really bring two things not really thought about together to make a unique film.

Well, unique if it wasn’t a true story. Now I am babbling. Yay chess?

Yeah, there is some chess right there!

In Uganda, a large portion of the population does not play chess. In Katwe specifically, it is a mostly village town with a lot of people living in the slums, struggling to survive. Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga) is a young girl living in these slums! She doesn’t go to school as they cannot afford it. Instead she helps sell corn all day to people in cars so they can afford rent. She lives with her mother (Lupita Nyong’o), older sister Night (Taryn Kyaze), younger brother (Martin Kabanza), and a baby brother too. No dad anymore, he died a few years ago, thus the struggle to survive.

But there is some hope. There is a church group nearby that is helping keep the kids in good health and spirits, teaching them soccer mostly. But one man, a very smart man, Robert Katende (David Oyelowo) wants them to learn chess. A game that he learned as a kid to beat those “city folk” and really stick it to them. Phiona follows her brother to a meeting spot for this, instantly falls in love with the game and begins to play as well.

And she is super interested in chess. She makes a makeshift chess board out of bottle caps with her brother so they can play at home. And soon, SOON, she is the best player in Katwe of the kids who can’t afford school.

But that isn’t her end goal. No, she needs to go to bigger tournaments. In Uganda, in Africa, hell, in other continents around the world. Her drive and desire is pushing her forward and it might what can really save her family from poverty in their small village.

Also featuring Ronald Ssemaganda and Esther Tebandeke.

You might have your mothers features but you lack her sense of style.

For a movie that lacked a lot of advertisement, it sure does tell a good story.

This isn’t the greatest film by any means. It is average on the acting front, pretty normal camera work and scenes to keep you entertained. It won’t win any awards. But when it comes to telling an interesting and inspirational tale, it does a wonderful job.

Our big three leads do a good job of carrying the emotional/spiritual side of the story, Nyong’o, Oyelowo, and Nalwanga. You will like all the characters, through their faults and triumphs. We even get to see cute baby scenes, yay cute baby scenes! (And one scary one that almost freaked me the fuck out).

For her first ever film (and she had only seen one movie before in her life while filming this one, Jurassic World) Nalwanga plays her part with ease. Despite the bigger names, it is very clearly her film and a story about this chess prodigy and not the coach who found the diamond in the rough or anything like that.

And on that note, there aren’t a lot of movies really about chess. Sure we had Pawn Sacrifice a year or two ago, but that was about the most famous chess player of all time and nothing to special. Maybe it appealed to me more given that I am becoming a chess club coach in a week and excited at the timing of this film. It is a nice film about picking hard to reach goals and doing whatever it takes to achieve them.

3 out of 4.

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Sep 21

Audrie & Daisy

Did you read my review of Detropia? No? Of course not. And don’t worry, it wasn’t the best review.

Because when I wrote that review, my heart wasn’t into it. Into the film or the writing. It just was there. I watched it a month ago, saddened, because I was hoping to see a new documentary that caught my eye instead. Audrie & Daisy. Just something I found by googling new documentaries on Netflix, except I was a month early. Argh, but the topic was interesting to me!

What is the topic? Well, sexual assault of course!

Oh, erm. Technically not the topic to get very excited for, but given certain documentaries recently like The Hunting Ground and The Invisible War, they tend to hit hard and be really well made.

Audrie & Daisy is a documentary trying to slow it down a bit. We aren’t going to talk about a dozen different stories, just mainly two stories. Audrie Pott and Daisy Coleman, two girls who were both in high school with unfortunately very different results.

One again, a documentary where I have to basically just use the poster/cover because everything else would be boring.

I won’t tell you the details, but yes, things don’t end well. Like, at all. First of course there is rape involved. Not really a good start to any story. Alcohol was involved, they were both underage and consent could not be given in their conditions, but people took advantage of them.

They also decided to not just hide their case either. They went public about it, to the cops, and their lives were practically ruined because of it. Online harassment, friends harassment, people calling them names in school because the boys involved were athletes. The police not believing them, working slowly, or not giving correct results maybe because a boy is related to a politician. You know, the usual terrible stuff.

And guess what? This documentary will make you feel bad and make you feel angry. Angry at a whole lot of people, but also angry that women everywhere have to put up with this sort of stuff if they want to bring up transgressions against them.

Again, keeping it vague so you can find out the whole story, but it is worth a watch and the details will piss you off. Even when people serve time, it isn’t enough and too late.

My only issue with the documentary as a whole is that by making it about two people, yes we got very good details on their case and yes we got how they were “related,” but it feels like it is just missing more. More statistics, more talk with people who are experts, just something. I need more than people just talking about terrible events and offering temporary solutions to make it a truly great documentary.

But it is worthy of a watch, and being straight on Netflix, everyone will have an opportunity to see it before awards season.

3 out of 4.

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Sep 19

Star Trek Beyond

I am sad. People die all the time, but now this is my third review post Anton Yelchin death, watching a movie with him in it. And sure, in this one he isn’t the lead. He is a major player, but a relatively minor part with only a few scenes to probably excel in.

Still though, he isn’t the captain.

But going into Star Trek Beyond, I am going in very weary. The last one was interesting, some cool scenes, but overall fell flat as a film. Star Trek Into Darkness was not trying hard enough to be its own movie, relying too heavily on being am unannounced remake.

So I am sad that the Star Trek movies are beginning to feel generic. Sad that Yelchin won’t be in future movies after this one. And sad that this one has unnecessary controversy relating to what George Takei does or does not give his blessing for.

Although if the film gives me a dance number, I might reconsider the generic comment.

Hey look! The USS Enterprise is still in action, still doing their normal things. Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) is still captain-y, Spock (Zachary Quinto) is still Vulcan-y, Scotty (Simon Pegg), Checkov (Yelchin), Sulu (John Cho), Bones (Karl Urban), and Uhura (Zoe Saldana) are all their names-y. Especially Bones.

Except there are some boredom pains. Kirk is worried he no longer cares about exploring and is just running with the motions. He is thinking bout switching up to a higher position and getting off the ship. Spock is also worried about his future. He just figured out that Future Spock has died (Fuck, I also forgot Leonard Nemoy had died since the last movie. Fuck fuck fuck). With the Vulcans a dying race, he feels he should get off the ship, help be an ambassador and start a purely Vulcan family.

But first, let’s do one more mission. They have to go into a Nebula to look for a missing space craft because only the Enterprise is built well enough to handle it. Everything is going okay, and hey, a surprise attack! Now the Enterprise is crashed on a planet, the crew separated, and a scary race of aliens who want to take down the Federation for some reason.

One last mission always does this, doesn’t it? Starring Idris Elba as the bad guy, Joe Taslim as the bad guy in second command, and Sofia Boutella as Jaylah, mysterious awesome alien lady.

And Jaylah is like Jesus, in that she is a savior of the film.

My main thought during the film and after it was over was how much better the title Into Darkness would have fit for this film than the previous film. It was definitely a darker in tone film. The crew was split up, the Enterprise fucked up, many people captured and some red shirts killed. They went into a very dark and scary Nebula to get to the plot. They went INTO DARKNESS.

But sure, a lot of the film is on a bright planet during the day, but still, that title change would be great.

The film itself is silly and full of meh moments. I honestly found myself shaking my head. Elements that were going to explain everything felt short. Action scenes might not have made a lot of sense. There was a very clusterfucky scene involving the enterprise mostly empty on the planet in the middle of the night, was written for explosions and not for anything else to make sense.

Without a few characters I would have been bored out of my mind and given this a pretty failing grade. But Urban as Bones was really on his game in this film and always brought a smile to my face. Boutella as Jaylah was a breath of fresh air, in terms of humor, action, and the whole package. Jaylah rocks, we need more Jaylah.

In fact, that is the only reason I want more Star Trek movies. Let Jaylah star in all of these movies and not get reduced down to a small bit character and I got something interesting to finally watch.

Yelchin has better movies out this year, go watch them instead. There are better action and Sci-Fi movies this year, and obviously better comedies. But if you just want filler, then there are worse ways to go.

2 out of 4.

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Sep 13

Yoga Hosers

Ohhhhhhhh Kevin Smith. A man who has embraced the Cartman Whatever, I Do What I Want mentality that so many kids eventually grow into and hopefully out of.

I like Kevin Smith, I do, but almost every time I see his name in the news I cringe. It is generally a rant about something in pop culture and an article is made about that. Kevin Smith doesn’t know everything about everything, as a fan and a person, I understand that. So I’d rather just see articles about upcoming films and work and casting like a normal director.

His films are getting weirder and more specific. They used to speak for a generation and now, backed up by his own words, they kind of just speak for him. He wants to make films for him and him only, the critics be damned. Except I really liked Tusk. I was very worried about Yoga Hosers, given a trailer I saw, but damn did I like Tusk.

I don’t care what he does with his free time (and I acknowledge his films have gotten weaker since he discovered marijuana). I just eventually want to see Hit Somebody, Clerks 3, and MallBrats, damn it.

I did not ask for Smith dressed up as a German sausage, but I can see where he got confused.

Set a year or so after the events of Tusk, we return to our small town and our clerk employees who are now sort of famous. That’s right, because Colleen McKenzie (Harley Quinn Smith) and Colleen Collette (Lily-Rose Depp) helped lead the authorities to finding the missing American turned Walrus, they were in the paper once and their lives are just as uneventful.

Like, you know? They are just sophomores in high school, working a crummy job that Colleen C’s Dad (Tony Hale) got them. And his new girlfriend (Natasha Lyonne) is now their manager, ew yuck. They just care about their instagrams, their yoga (with a private instructor played by Justin Long), their band, and cute guys.

You know like Hunter Calloway (Austin Butler), a senior! And he has invited the Colleen’s to a senior party on a night they are not supposed to work, omg! As long as life doesn’t throw a hockey stick in their plans at least.

The Colleens just want to be normal girls, doing normal things. But un-normal Nazi related things are brewing in their neighborhood and it might just be up to them and their yoga to put a stop to it.

Also starring Jennifer Schwalbach Smith, of course, Adam Brody as a creepy drummer, Harley Morenstein as toilet paper man, Tyler Posey as annoying senior guy, Jason Mewes, Ralph Garman, Haley Joel Osment, and Johnny Depp returning as Guy Lapointe.

They weren’t even supposed to be here today.

When I say critics be damned, I really mean that. Smith refused to screen this film for critics. No pre-screeners for the press, no press copies online or in the mail, nothing. Just people who wanted to give him some money. And there is a reason behind that besides the obvious. At two points in the film, including a major part of the climax, are anti-critic. They go decently hard into and its the reason for the bad events in the film.

And, I dunno, am I supposed to care? This isn’t the first time there have been jokes about something that has represented me in a film. If a film makes fun of men, or white people, or nerds, or teachers, or geologists, I don’t rail against it and call it trash. If it is done in a funny way, I will find it funny, laugh and move on.

They were done in okay ways, but given the director’s actual statements, it makes it just come out as childish.

Related, the film is entirely childish. It doesn’t mean there aren’t amusing parts. Oh no, I laughed at a few. And I laughed at some small bit parts just for a quick joke. But the film is also all over the place. The trailer that turned me off so long ago? It was one part of the movie and that part took a long time to get to. The ending included a cool creation, but its demise wasn’t worth the time invested to get there.

But you know what? Johnny Depp as Guy Lapointe is still one of my favorite things ever. I will watch 10 more of these Canadian Smith films just to go on his adventures. Lapointe is Depp’s best work in years and that is why Yoga Hosers is worth a watch. Too bad it is out of all theaters by the time this review comes out.

2 out of 4.

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Sep 11

Looney Tunes: Back in Action

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you my 1700th (ish) movie review. Yes, a Milestone Review!

Except this is also technically my 1702th review. I have been quite busy lately and I forgot this grand milestone was coming upon us. Technically my review of Central Intelligence was the 1700th posted, but hey, close fucking enough, right!?

Anyways, Looney Tunes: Back In Action. Do you remember it existing at all? I doubt it. The first movie after the wildly cult success of Space Jam, I remember avoiding it at all costs. It looked bad, it looked different, it wasn’t Space Jam 2. Fourteen year old me knew it would be bad, and after it came out we basically all agreed to stop talking about it.

But to continue with a different theme. Is this the movie that helped kill Brendan Fraser‘s post Mummy career? I already did a milestone review of Journey to the Center of the Earth, but that didn’t kill his career as it was already on the decline in 2008.

Can a duck bring down a jungle boy, a caveman, and a rock star?

In this world gone mad, Looney Tunes and other cartoon figures roam the streets and live throughout the world, because they are just strange animated actors. Yes, they can still ignore physics and have other cartoon perks, but they are just…real. And in this real world, Warner Brothers is about to fire Daffy Duck.

He is being a dick, demanding rewrites, tired of getting shot and so on, so they just say screw him and kick him out of the studio. They don’t give a fuck, people want to see Bugs Bunny anyways, not the other cast and crew.

Surely this decision will not come back to bite Kate Houghton, Vice-President of Comedy (Jenna Elfman), in the ass.

These are the only other non LT cartoon characters shown and hey, it is a funny scene.

DJ Drake (Brendan Fraser) is a sort of stunt man and security guard at WB and he is yelled at to find the Duck and make sure he actually leaves the lot. Of course there is a huge scuffle and the batman mobile ends up knocking over the WB water tower, all over executives and equipment, thanks to DJ and Daffy. So DJ gets fired too, a double whammy firing day!

Those WB executives sure are cold. Looks like Kate didn’t know that he was a special security guard/stunt man. His father was Damien Drake (Timothy Dalton), a really famous movie star for the company. Shit.

She doesn’t care, they ruined her hat!

Speaking of his father, turns out Damien Drake is more than just a movie star. He is secretly a spy (because spies are usually a secretive profession). Damien needs his son to travel to Las Vegas, find his associate, and help find the “blue monkey” diamond. What is that? Good question. DAmien is too busy getting kidnapped to answer though.

And Daffy hasn’t left DJ alone, so he demands to come along for the ride. The studio be damned, he has an adventure to do.

About this time also, Kate realized she fucked up, the movie isn’t as funny without Daffy, so she makes it her mission to find DJ and Daffy to restore her film and restore her job.

That is a different woman with a different job.

They end up meeting up, making it to Vegas and that dancer is of course Dusty Tails (Heather Locklear, shit, how old is this movie?), a secret spy as well. She works at a club run by Yosemite Sam because he works for the ACME corporation, the big bad guys of this world.

Wanna know why they are bad? Good question. But they are the ones who captured Damien! Dusty gives them a Queen playing card with Mona Lisa’s face and they are chased off by Yosemite.

They also find out that the evil ACME corporation wants the blue monkey diamond to…turn everyone in the world into monkeys! Oh, okay. Mr. Chairman (Steve Martin), is that really your goal?

“Of course it is, why else would I be stretching??”

The gang heads to Paris, France, as they are basically now spies and fuck it. They go to The Louvre because The Mona Lisa painting is there and they know how to read obvious clues.

Using secret card technology, they discover that behind The Mona Lisa is a map of Africa. And it doesn’t look to detailed, but it is the best they got. Elmer Fudd also shows up, turns out he was secretly working for ACME as well, oh no! Fudd chases our duck and bunny through a series of paintings because they are cartoon characters, whatever.

And you know what? It annoys me. They go from famous painting to famous painting. Like The Scream painting. And the god damn Scream painting isn’t at The Louvre, never really was, but the movie goes lazy. Sure, they can get the Mona Lisa right, but then they decide to skirt the details?

Come on assholes. Anyways, as expected, they escape and head to “Africa” to find the next clue.

Hopefully there isn’t another art museum there. It’s best paintings will have been stolen b The Louvre.

In Africa, they awkwardly find the Jungle Temple like. Really quickly. The Grandma and Tweety bird show it to them, because they know things too. Inside is the Blue Monkey, and then, shenanigans! The Grandma and company were actually Mr. Chairman the whole time!

They transport everyone back to their lair, using technology, and force DJ and Kate to give up the blue diamond when they show Damien as their prisoner.


And now, by putting it on the satellite, they can turn the whole world into monkeys!

This picture is entirely out of place, but its strangeness makes it okay.

At this point, a lot of comic violence occurs. They have to fight to save Damien, fight to get the blue monkey back, and more people appear.

Of course they save the day and the only one who turns into a monkey is Mr. Chairman himself, take that fuckers. Daffy had to become Duck Dodgers to do it, but he was successful.

They determine the whole thing was staged to be a film and all of this was meaningless. Makes a bit more sense now. But don’t worry, Bugs is going to make Daffy equal partners from now on, until the credits suddenly appear and a deal can’t be made. Ha ha, suck it Daffy!

Other people I didn’t even bother to mention in this film include Joan Cusack and Roger Corman!

And we have to end the film with a kiss, it just makes sense.

There were so many bad decisions made in this film, it is unbelievable.

In Space Jam, we go from a regular human world with cartoons, where they live in the earth in a magical other realm, to…they just live on Earth and everything is fine? Having all of these characters not together,spread out awkwardly around the world means outside of Daffy and Bugs we rarely get any real cameo time. So it is all Bugs and Daffy and very little else, feeling like a huge missed opportunity.

And the genre shift goes from space adventure sports film to a spy film? Going from Sports film to Spy film is usually not a good genre order, but at least now can understand where Cars 2 got the terrible idea from.

I am not sure if this is the film that killed Fraser’s career, because no one really saw it or cared for it enough to damage his already strange career. Plus, Monkeybone was already a thing at this time. Another film I haven’t seen but could try it for a future milestone given the weird things I’ve heard. It might have damaged Elfman’s movie career before it could really take off, so she basically stuck to TV.

But here is the most important question I have. The subtitle is Back in Action. What the fuck at they back in action to? Like, if this was a direct sequel to Space Jam that might make sense. As they return to Earth to do things (spy things unfortunately, but things nonetheless). But no, it is talking about a return, but there is no return at any point in this movie.

If it should have a title along these lines, Looney Tunes: Now in Action might make sense as this spy adventure is not their normal cup of tea.

This movie is a disgrace. Space Jam might not actually be a great film (according to lame people), but this one is far below Space Jam.

0 out of 4.

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Sep 08

The Wild Life

I didn’t know The Wild Life was coming out this year. I didn’t know it even really existed, to be honest. The Wild Life is a Belgian animated film, that has now been given some English voice actors and slapped down to America.

But this film had no advertising. I never saw a trailer, I barely saw the poster, and I would have never really known it was released today if it wasn’t for the fact that they sent me an invite to a screening.

Here is my guess. I just assume that this involves a group of 4-5 animals, who talk and go on wacky adventures together. You know, stuff from the first decade of the millennium.

Shit, there is at least six animals in this picture already, so I am already wrong.

This movie starts off with a group of pirates led by Long John Silver (Dennis O’Connor), seeing a signal fire on an island, taking the one man to their boat to find out his story. But screw that, the parrot, Mac (David Howard) has the better story.

Mac was living on a small island, bored out of his mind. He was friends with everyone on the island. Suspiciously, the entire island only had one of every animal only, except for bugs and fish. There is Rosie the Tapir (Laila Berzins), Epi the Echidna (Sandy Fox), Scrubby the Blind Goat (Joey Camen), Carmello the Chameleon (Colin Metzger), Pango the Pangolin (Jeff Doucette), and Kiki a blue bird thing (Marieve Herington).

Mac believes there is a world outside of the island, and when a ship crashes onto the island he finally has proof! And what is on that ship? Well, a dog (Doug Stone), some cats (I don’t know most of their names, but Kyle Hebert did one of them), and a man named Robinson Crusoe (Yuri Lowenthal). There they learn to live in harmony and trust, build sweet stuff and have good memories.

Oh and the cats are the jerk bad guys, because cats are assholes as we all know.

Yep, that dude is totally about to join an animal orgy.

I did not know I was watching a secret Robinson Crusoe movie. If I did, I might have been even more reluctant to go, and yes, I am comparing that to generic diverse talking animal adventure film. But it was called Robinson Crusoe in its original release and went for a cooler title, but one that really doesn’t describe the film at all now.

And technically this really has fuck all to do with the book. We have the character and a shipwreck, but everything is just a unique story at this point.

I ended up enjoying the animation style, the animals were all very detailed with their own basic personalities. I very much appreciated that the animals were basically given real names and not just called Goat-y and Tapira or shit like that (Pango aside). And even more exciting was that these characters were all voiced by non celebrities. Some of them are real voice work artists, some of them have only one IMDB actor credit, but none of them are big actors just to sell the movie, regardless of voice work talent. That is a nice change of pace.

The issues with the film are that the story is simple. Like, beyond simple. Survival wasn’t a real issue in the movie. Pirates barely mattered. No, it was all hunky-dory. The main issue was mean cats trying to survive off more than bugs, so you know, eventually they try to kill everyone. I fell asleep early on because it took so long to really get to the point. The decision to make 95% of the movie as a flashback is a poor tool, why not just start in the damn beginning.

And yes, I do get annoyed that this small island apparently has the most fruit food ever. And that it is never addressed why these six or so animals live here and none of them have mates or a real way to have gotten to that island. All of the nitpicking really boils down to is that they just didn’t really think this whole thing through or care about the holes that might exist.

The Wild Life will probably not be successful, because it isn’t Pixar and Disney. The animation was cool, the voice work was nice, but the story was too basic and not exciting enough to see again.

2 out of 4.

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Sep 07

Central Intelligence

It has been well noted that for every movie, there is an at least equal if not better movie out there that would exist if Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was included in that film. Just look at any franchise that didn’t have The Rock in it, then added The Rock to it. It is pure, unadulterated science, like Mathematics.

At the same time, films that add Kevin Hart as a co-lead tend to suffer. Sure, maybe they make some money, but basically everything that has Hart at co-lead has been mediocre at best, and generally terrible. The only films that excel with Hart are those that limit the Hart to a supporting actor role.

So this begs the question. What about a movie that has both Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart in it, as co-leads? Which side will win out? Can Johnson elevate it to greatness, or will Hart drag it down to mediocrity?

Central Intelligence was made just to answer that one question.

Just imagine averaging the two and seeing whose size is more extreme.

Back in 1996, The Golden Jet, Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart) was king. Homecoming King and the coolest kid ever, and a nice guy. During a final pep rally, some bullies threw a fat kid, Richard (Dwayne Johnson), naked into the gym and everyone laughed at him. But Calvin gave him his coat to cover him, Richard ran away and was never seen again.

Now, twenty years later, Calvin didn’t go and do anything sexy. He is an accountant (a good accountant), but not one that leads his own company or anything. He is still with his wife, Maggie (Danielle Nicolet), but they never had kids. And tomorrow night is his 20 year high school reunion. He is just not feeling it though.

Then he gets a Facebook friend request from someone named Bob Stone. Turns out it is Richard, from high school, and he wants to hang out! Sure! But now Bob is ripped as fuck. Quirky and weird, sure, but he got fit and he got tall.

But it also turns out he is in the CIA. Or used to be. He might have killed a man. He might be framed, he might be crazy. Either way, Calvin is now involved with Bob, and they are on the run, finding clues, and dealing with international finances. All before the reunion!

Also starring Jason Bateman as old bully Trevor, Amy Ryan and Aaron Paul as CIA people, Ryan Hansen as office coworker asshole, and Thomas Kretschmann as potential terrorist.

A moment of silence for the CGI crew who lost their lives to create this fat Rock.

And who won in the Rock Hart showdown? Well, apparently a positive beats a negative and I laughed an unreasonable amount of time in this film. That Johnson is just so damn entertaining. And since he played against his normal tropes, it was better than normal. Yes, it was technically the same joke over and over again. Big strong guy, but nerdy and super optimistic and putting Hart on this pedestal. But he went to the extreme and kept it and it totally worked.

And as a comparison, it reminds me of Terry Crews‘ character on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but only in the strange strong man role.

Hart wasn’t terrible either, because despite being the main character, he still felt limited. His character was just along for the ride (not like Ride Along), so he was a very supporting lead character.

The plot? Not the best, but it wasn’t terrible. I was incorrect with my guess on the twists technically, so it got me there.

This isn’t a movie you watch for that. You watch it for laughs, decent action, and because everyone has a crush on that big manly Rock like man.

3 out of 4.

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Sep 06

The Light Between Oceans

I won’t begin this review with another boring introduction about how I know nothing about this film (I do!). I will instead mention a strange coincidence!

For the last two weeks I have been listening to the Blueprints of Armageddon, a seven part podcast series about World War 1 by Hardcore History/Dan Carlin. I have been taking a break from audio books for awhile on my drives to and from work and movies. It is pretty good so far and I am learning a lot. And earlier this week I watched Sunset Song (review at some point), which is a Scottish film based on a book that leads up to World War I. And much to my surprise, the next night, I watched The Light Between Oceans, a film that takes place in Australia, right after World War I.

Fuck. I am so god damn into World War I right now. This cannot be a coincidence, I should develop time travel. And you know, avoid World War I, because that shit was scary.

Awww, a nice happy and calming baby to make me feel better.

A lot of people died in World War I, and a lot of survivors had to kill people to do so. PTSD is real. It has fucked over people. Like Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender), who just wants to be alone. He got a job manning a lighthouse on an island called Janus in Western Australia, which is a long long distance from any civilization. He has no family to bring with him, just a home, a lighthouse, a job and an island to himself.

But eventually, Tom does get a bit lonely. And in the “nearby” town, he has met and started writing to one Isabel Graysmark (Alicia Vikander). They instantly hit it off and fall in love and knowing that only a wife can join him on the island, they get married and begin their lives together.

Unfortunately, their lives together begin with a rocky start. And no, I am not just talking about their island coast that they warn nearby ships about. Pregnancies occur, but so do miscarriages and they start to begin to lose hope. Sure, they love each other, but a death in the family is a hard thing to cope with.

However, miracles do happen. A small row boat washes ashore and inside is a dead man (Leon Ford) and a crying baby who needs help. Have their prayers been answered? It is Tom’s duty to report this incident, but if they do that, the baby will surely be taken back and there is no way they can adopt her. Maybe they can just…lie, raise the baby as their own.

Also starring Rachel Weisz, Benedict Hardie, Garry Macdonald, Jane Menelaus, Anthony Hayes, Florence Clery, and Jack Thompson.

Love Love Love Love Love
Nothing really says love like turning yourselves into patio furniture.

Well, I cried. I cried a lot. I cried probably more than a grown man should in a film, unless it is somewhere in his first 1-3 times watching Les Miserables. This film had all of the correct notes to just wreck me emotionally.

It had romance and loniliness. It had pregnancies and miscarriages. It had depression and danger. It had the cutest baby girl, learning how to be a real human. It had a father figure who would do anything to protect his wife and daughter (well, “daughter”), both things I can relate to. And it had morally black situations. That is more hardcore than morally grey. Because, really, at some points the right decisions are easy to determine as long as you ignore the human factor. But eventually, the situation becomes so out of control that I didn’t even try to predict what would happen next. I just wanted the movie to decide for me and show me the consequences of these decisions.

For some, the film will drag at over 2 hours long. There are lots of scenes with no dialogue, especially early on, but the shots are beautiful and the emotions are showcased in our actors eyes. But it was just right for me. I almost never wanted it to end. I was shocked every time we had a large jump in story time, basically wishing I could see every decision and action that led up to the end.

And fuck, we cannot forget about our leads. Vikander and Fassbender’s chemistry (and last names) are so strong in this film, they feel like a real couple. And hey, it turns out that they are now still a couple thanks to the film. The film showed them falling in love so well because that is what was happening between them in real life. And damn it, it shows. Strong performances were also given by Weisz and Clery, our little girl.

The Light Between Oceans is a movie I never want to see again. It is also the type of movie that makes me want to read the book it was so good. I just cannot see myself dealing with all those emotions in such a small amount of time again that I just will probably avoid it forever, despite being one of the year’s best.

4 out of 4.

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Sep 05

Sunset Song

Anne of Green Gables, Little House on the Prairie, and Sarah, Plain and Tall are all books that were about women living in farming communities, simple lives, and totally kid friendly.

Sunset Song is not one of those things. It is about a girl, sure, a farm, yeah, but it isn’t American and it isn’t a nice and easy kid friendly book. It was a realistic novel and it is considered one of the greatest Scottish novels of the 20th century. Source: Wikipedia.

It is the type of thing that one would have imagined as a film thirty years ago but hey, better late than never.

Life doesn’t give a shit about your strength, there is still work to be done.

Chris Guthrie (Agyness Deyn) is almost a woman and living with her family. Her brother Will (Jack Greenlees) often comes to blows with their father (Peter Mullan), and by that, Will gets whipped still. They also have two younger siblings. Oh wait on that as well, despite her age, the mom (Daniela Nardini) is now pregnant again, with twins!

Now the family has to go and move to a bigger house and plantation. And with more space comes more problems. Depression and loneliness are a big part of it, and after a few events, it is just Chris, Will, and her father. And times are hard, money is scarce, people are jobless.

If I kept talking about the plot, I would describe more worse and worse situations. Including the start of World War I, yay!

So let’s just cut the chase, say life is hard, and introduce some more actors. Like Stuart Bowman, Douglas Rankine, and Kevin Guthrie.

Don’t be mad, just fill in the blanks and you can probably imagine all the bad stuff.

Sunset Song had a lot going for it. Apparently a great source material, a good an authentic feeling cast, gorgeous land and shots, and very uncomfortable moments. Because no one wants to see life on the farm if it is ordinary and boring. We need that bad stuff to happen to our cast in order to see some struggles and see heroes grow before our eyes.

Deyn knocks it out of the park in the leading role. She grows from an obedient oldest daughter to someone capable of running everything on her own. She is just a woman trying to suffer in a man’s world. And it is a terrible story to watch, which is why I love it so. I never got fully cry emotional, but I was still right there on her journey with her.

It is a long movie with a lot of scenes. It reinforced some aspects of World War I that I had recently learned, making it feel even more awesome. The soundtrack was also a delight, featuring some nice Scottish songs.

But what I didn’t like? The ending. It felt rushed (in a 140 minute film), and it ended on such a weird note. I have come to learn that the book is the first of a trilogy and in book form it might make sense, but as a film it just feels blah. “Is that it?” I asked my computer screen. I had felt like our main girl was suddenly no longer acting like herself. And it didn’t give any nice conclusion or anything.

So if there are more movies in the future? Fantastic, I would watch them. But I hate it when a movie doesn’t want to tell a whole complete story.

3 out of 4.

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Sep 01

The 9th Life of Louis Drax

My decision to watch The 9th Life of Louis Drax seemed to happen almost by accident. In fact, I had four options for screeners to go see, an overwhelming number of choices. One of them was about to come out in theaters, so I didn’t want to rush the review. Another one didn’t come out for almost two months, and there would be more future screenings. So it came down to this film and a war film.

I settled on 9th Life merely because it seemed weird. Both films seemed interesting, both had mysterious components. But this title was just a bit stranger.

And hey, going on to read the IMDB page really didn’t answer any questions. I figured it was based on a book and would just be an actual unique movie to witness. I just didn’t imagine it would also be intense, haunting, and emotional.

And hey, you know what they say.
Wires on the head, sexy in bed.

Louis Drax (Aiden Longworth) is not your average little kid. On his 9th birthday, he finds himself falling off a cliff, straight into the ocean. You see, Louis Drax has always been accident prone. His birth was an accident, he almost killed his mom, Natalie (Sarah Gadon) in the process and needed an emergency C-Section. When he was a baby, a light fixture fell on him in his crib, breaking ribs. But Louis survived. Louis survived electric shocks, food poisoning, and more, and damn it, he is going to survive this.

Sure, he was declared legally dead for over two hours and is now in a coma, but he survived. Sure, his dad (Aaron Paul) allegedly pushed him over the edge and is now on the run missing, but he survived. He is now having visions in his coma, causing him to flashback through his life, but he survived.

And he has a great coma doctor to help him in Dr. Allan Pascal (Jamie Dornan), who also gives TED talks about coma stuff that is totally relevant to the plot. However, Pascal’s relationship with Natalie, as they both mourn over Louis’ fate gets a bit too personal and with the dad potentially stalking around, it can get bad.

At the same time, they really have to get to the bottom of all these accidents. Why is God seemingly out to get this little boy, causing him to need to see a psychiatrist (Oliver Platt) for all of his issues?

Also starring Lina Roessler, Julian Wadham, Molly Parker, Barbara Hershey, and Anjali Jay.

Ah, what a happy little family. 9th birthdays are always full of falling from heights, right?

The 9th Life of Louis Drax is the type of film I would love to talk about, complete with spoilers, but that is now how my site has worked. So I will respect that and keep things vague.

9th Life was a movie going experience. Not in the same way of something like Lord of the Rings, but an emotional roller coaster, going more than up and down, but also backwards, looping, spinning, and in circles. I’m sorry, that hyperbole was kind of shit. The intro showed Louis going through accidents growing up, including as a baby, and it basically made me horrified. I cried. And that was just the beginning. (Editor’s Note: Yes, I also cried at the ending).

Louis in the coma was a strange place, full of flashbacks, weird creatures and demonic voices. What was happening in real life at the same time was just so odd and strange. In terms of the mystery, I figured it out for the most part about halfway through. However, I was wildly wrong on the smaller details and guessing a big part of the end didn’t take away from the actual experience.

No, we don’t get to see Dornan’s penis. Stop asking. This is like Fifty Shades of Grey all over again.

The acting from Gadon, Dornan, Longworth, and Paul were all top notch. This is probably the best acting I have seen from Paul since Breaking Bad. He had me in tears at one part as well. Gadon’s character was appropriately weird, Longworth carried every scene despite being such a young actor, and Dornan was a very relatable character. It was easy to see his mistakes and understand why he was making them, while also finding him sincere in all of his actions.

And shit. This movie despite being fiction is about real diseases and problems. Again, if I went into specifics, it’d count as spoilers. There was one really odd scene at first that didn’t feel realistic. However, it fit within the universe that the movie had created, so it wasn’t completely out of place. It did provide a very haunting and sad ending as all of the threads were finally unraveled.

The 9th Life of Louis Drax surprised me. I both want to see it again and kind of never again. Good performances all around and damn it, an original story as well.

4 out of 4.

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