Sometimes you see a movie that will just not leave your brain as questions keep running through your head about what it all meant and what it was trying to say. I guess this is TECHNICALLY one of those movies, but certainly not for the reasons the filmmakers hoped for because I have nothing but contempt for the asinine questions that I’m left with after watching the damn thing which is made even worse because there ARE no answers. This was just a super sloppy movie PRETENDING it knew what the hell it was doing and it utterly failed to convince me otherwise. Since keeping things bottled up is not a particularly healthy way to deal with something, I decided to let YOU all know what questions I was pondering while watching this silly film and how the movie fails to address them in any adequate or satisfying way! Before that though, let’s have a full rundown of the plot so that you all have a better idea of where I’m coming from if you haven’t seen the movie. Trust me, I’d rather spend my time recounting it here than make ANYONE feel like they’d have to sit through this drivel just to understand what the heck I’m talking about! FULL SPOILERS AHEAD!!
The Commuter and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
Now that the end of year hold overs are finishing up their rounds at the box office, it’s time for the TRUE January releases to show themselves which are becoming less associated with absolutely dreadful movies with each successive year, but can still be considered a dumping ground for stuff the studios felt couldn’t hack it in more competitive months. I guess a Liam Neeson action flick isn’t the WORST way to herald in the New Year, but then I’m pretty sure there are people who still wake up in a cold sweat thinking about Taken 3 and the infamous fourteen cut fence jump. Will this movie be another strike against the increasingly fragile belief that January films tend to be terrible, or will this only reinforce those notions for yet another year? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with exceedingly average older white dude Michael MacCauley (Liam Neeson) going about his daily routine and living the exceedingly average older white dude life. That is until he gets fired from his exceedingly average older white dude job for lousy capitalist reasons, and is now facing the prospect of financial ruin; right before his son heads off to college too! Things seem rather for the guy as he boards the train with nothing to look forward to other than telling his family the devastating news, but fortune seems to be in his favor as a mysterious woman (Vera Farmiga) offers him twenty-five grand now and seventy-five grand later if he can just do one small insignificant thing. Find a person on this train that has something of value in their bag, is traveling to Cold Spring, and goes by the name “Prynne”. The woman gets off at the next stop and while Michael is more than happy to hold onto that twenty-five grand she gave him up front, he feels a bit hesitant about finding this person to claim the other seventy-five. Fortunately for THE BAD GUYSTM that the mysterious woman is forking for, as well as the audience I guess, they kidnapped his family anyway so he has no choice but to find the passenger known as “Prynne” before anything happens to them! Will Michael not only find “Prynne” but figure out what THE BAD GUYSTM are planning to do once they find them? What can Michael do when every move he makes is being watched by THE BAD GUYSTM… somehow? How many non-Taken Taken movies is Liam Neeson gonna have to make before they give him one that doesn’t suck!?
The Saw films and all the images you see in this retrospective are owned by Lionsgate Films
As mentioned in my Jigsaw review, I’ve had a somewhat complicated relationship with Saw franchise as I’m sure is the case with a lot of fans who somehow stuck with this series to the bloody end despite it inarguably getting worse and worse as it went along. Now this is hardly new for horror franchises (just look at the startling sharp drop the Halloween movies took) but to me Saw wasn’t just a series that got BAD or CHEESY as it went along; it got actively toxic. What do I mean by that? Well if you read the review I’ve now referenced twice already (SHARE IT WITH YOUR FRIENDS!!) you probably already know what that is, but let’s go ahead and take a look at this series from the beginning to see just how it managed to change and pervert its core concepts over time. Oh, and we’re going into TOTAL SPOILERS on these films, so only read if you’ve already binged watched them on Netflix or cannot be bothered to ever do so. Let’s get started!!
Two men (Cary Elwes and Leigh Whannell) find themselves locked in a room and chained to opposite sides of it with a dead guy right in the middle; presumably having shot his brains out given the blood on the floor and the gun in his hand. Eventually they find a few tapes left for them by the serial killer who locked them up there in the first place known only as Jigsaw. They only have so much time to get out of this trap before the killer starts looking towards their loved ones, and this means they may have to make some really tough decisions; ones that involve the titular saw of the movie.
I haven’t watched this movie in about a decade so going back to where it all started, ESPECIALLY after seeing what the series would ultimately turn into, was quite a shock as the original film has much more in common with Se7en than any of the other movies. To a certain extent it’s a bit unfair to compare this initial entry to the rest of the series as it ends up feeling like an outlier (similar to how the first Friday the 13th doesn’t even have Jason as the killer) but there are qualities to this that are sorely missed in the sequels. For one, Jigsaw isn’t the overwhelming and unstoppable force that he would become in later films and is also a downright sadistic mother fucker with no redeeming qualities. Later films went all in on the cult of Jigsaw which is one of the biggest failings of the entire series; not only because it puts forth a reprehensible world view, but it takes so much menace and danger away from Jigsaw as a character. The Jigsaw in this film (working through a character named Zep) isn’t given a platform to spout his faux-populist agenda and the film takes time to show just how horrific and unjustifiable his actions are; mostly through the extended sequences of Zep having to terrorize a mother and child while the game is going on. Compare this to the later films where even the INNOCENT victims barely get a semblance of humanity before becoming props in a giant shit show of moving parts and sharp metal, and you can see why things got so monotonous and smug as the series went along. Now I’m not about to tell you that this is a perfect movie by any stretch as the editing is rather poor and the performance by Danny Glover is surprisingly awful, but you can see why this first film managed to garner the reputation it did and why Lionsgate was so eager to turn it into a franchise. The only question is, now that we know who the killer is (the guy on the floor played by Tobin Bell was playing dead the whole time) where else could they really go?
Boo 2! A Madea Halloween and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate
Directed by Tyler Perry
Oh great. We’re back here again, and I have the feeling we’ll be back her again AGAIN come next October because if there are two things Tyler Perry is good at, its making movies quick and beating a dead horse. I didn’t outright HATE the first film, but it’s pretty terrible and showcases pretty much all the weaknesses in the Tyler Perry formula that somehow has captured the hearts and minds of millions of people. Does this movie improve upon the last film to make something tolerable for the rest of us who aren’t in the Madea loop? Of course not; you knew that BEFORE this movie was even made. Is it at least TOLERABLE though? Well… let’s find out.
It’s Halloween again in whatever town this is and the events of last year are still somewhat fresh in the memories of all the characters they bothered to bring back for this one. I say SOMEWHAT because Tiffany (Diamond White) still has very little respect for her father Brian (Tyler Perry) despite learning that lesson last year, and the situation is worse now because she is OFFICIALLY EIGHTEEN!! Apparently her birthday is on the thirtieth of October which I don’t recall them mentioning in the first film, but that’s the case here which means its PERFECTLY LEGAL now for her to tell her dad to piss off and go get laid by the broiest bro in the frat Johnathan (Yousef Erakat) who has an even BETTER party planned this time around! This time, the party will be at the Ye Old lake where apparently a dozen people were murdered back in the seventies and I GUESS has been closed ever sense which makes it the perfect place to set up a rockin’ Halloween PAR-TAY! Of course Brian has a problem with this, but since his ex-wife () () gave Tiffany permission (which she didn’t even NEED because she’s an adult now), there’s very little he can do. BULLSHIT, I SAY! There must be SOMEONE willing to stop this girl from having fun! I guess this is a job for Madea, Uncle Joe (both Tyler Perry), Aunt Bam (Cassi Davis), and Hattie (Patrice Lovely) who all return from the last film and are apparently haven’t moved an inch as they start this movie in the same damn chairs they spent most of the LAST movie sitting in. When they get up there though, things aren’t what they appear to be as they start running into mysterious characters with dangerous weapons and ill intent that seem just as hell bent on stopping this party as the Madea crew are; though admittedly with much more violent means. Will Brian ever find a way to get through to Tiffany’s rebellious streak and stop her from making poor decisions? What else is up at the lake other than the horrors of sex, drugs, and pop music? How much longer can Tyler Perry POSSIBLY milk this character while still making a crap load of money EVERY SINGLE TIME!?
My Little Pony: The Movie and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate and Hasbro
Directed by Jayson Thiessen
It took them seven years to do this? We’ve had at least four equestrian girl movies, not to mention a slew of Hasbro properties making it to the big screen, but one of the most successful reboots of all time was put on the back burner until now!? Well better late than never I guess, though the trailers leading up to its release have certainly strained my credulity on that expression. Still, trailers aren’t always accurate and I’m certainly a big enough fan of this series that it wouldn’t be THAT hard to keep me at least mildly entertained. Can the team behind such a successful television series make a successful leap to the big screen, or was this as ill-fated a project as… well pretty much all the OTHER Hasbro films that we’ve gotten so far? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with yet another friendship festival that’s hosted by the Princess of Friendship (how much of Canterlot’s tax revenue is straight up pork for Twilight’s pet projects?) and they’ve even managed to get the one and only Sapphire Shores… I mean Countess Coloratura… I mean Songbird Serenade (Sia), to make an appearance! Twilight Sparkle (Tara Strong) along with her assistant Spike (Cathy Weseluck) and her friends Rarity, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, and Applejack (Tabitha St Germain, Andrea Libman, and Ashleigh Ball), seem to have everything under control and are ready to set everything in motion, but then a fleet of very intimidating airships descend upon the capital of Equestria and start demanding their complete and utter surrender! It turns out that this is the opening salvo for a maniacal dictator known as The Storm King (Live Schreiber) and is being led by a mysterious pegasus with a broken horn named Tempest Shadow (Emily Blunt) who somehow manages to take out the three other princesses, Celestia, Luna, and Cadence (Nicole Oliver, Tabitha St Germain (again), and Britt McKillip) without the slightest bit of resistance! Either this is one bad mother of a pony or the Princesses need better security! In any case, the Twilight and her friends manage to escape but don’t have much to go on other than a mysterious message that Celestia shouted out before she was defeated and captured by Tempest Shadow; seek the queen of the hippos who lives beyond the badlands. Not sure how hippos will help in this situation unless you dropped them on Tempest, but with nothing else to go on they begin their journey outside of The Shire… I mean Equestria, hoping to find a way to stop The Storm King and Tempest before it’s too late. What will our little ponies find outside of the comforting boarders of Equestria, and will they know how to deal with such strange and frightening environments? What is Tempest REALLY after in all this, and what does the Storm King have in store for all of them once he arrives in Canterlot? Is the answer to all these questions Friendship? I bet it’s gonna be Friendship.
American Assassin and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate Films
Directed by Michael Cuesta
I don’t know about you, but I’m just happy that we’re not gonna be seeing any more trailers for this now that the movie has finally come out as its second only to Flatliners as far as obnoxiously overplayed teasers whenever I go to the cinema. Still, just because they overdid it with the marketing for this (at least for the movies I went to see) doesn’t mean it’ll be a bad film, and if nothing else it at least has the Birdman himself to lend a bit of charm to this! Does this manage to be a decent enough spy thriller that I forget just how annoying it was seeing the trailers over and over again, or are we in for the worst spy film since Cars 2? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) and his girlfriend Katrina (charlotte Vega) enjoying a vacation in Spain that is capped off with Mitch proposing to her and Katrina saying yes! Okay, ACTUALLY it gets capped off with a bunch of terrorist dudes start fucking shit up and one of them (Shahid Ahmed) fires a few rounds right through Katrina’s chest. Mitch then spends the next eighteen months training his ass off and embedding himself into the same terrorist cell that launched the beach attack, and this somehow works as he ends up face to face with the man who shot his wife under the guise of joining his cell. Before he can stick a knife in his throat however, AMERICA bursts through the front door and drills FREEDOM right into the heads of each and every terrorist there; luckily sparing Mitch but also taking out his target before he could. Now you’d think this would be the end of Mitch’s story as he’d either go to jail for trying to join terrorists or at the very least be pointed to a decent counselor to help deal with his grief, but that’s not what Deputy CIA Director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) has in mind!! She decides to recruit this lone wolf for OFFICIAL assignments and sends him to Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton) to put a bit of discipline in him and see if he can be an effective weapon for the CIA. Well I guess they’ll have to find out sooner than they thought as some nuclear material is stolen out of Russia and seems to be heading to Iran by way of a MYSTERIOUS mercenary known as GHOST, and clearly Mitch, along with Stan, a red shirt (Scott Adkins) and another spy named Annika (Shiva Negar), are the ONLY ONES WHO CAN STOP HIM! Will Dylan find a way to satisfy his bloodlust now that the target of his revenge was prematurely terminated? Who is this MYSTERIOUS Ghost and why does he have the most generic mercenary name imaginable? Was this SERIOUSLY a book first? Someone wrote this shit down!?
The Hitman’s Bodyguard and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate
Directed by Patrick Hughes
Okay, so MAYBE Atomic Blonde didn’t turn out to be everything I was hoping for, but that’s not the ONLY move I was looking forward to this year! Who DOESN’T want to see two of the best action/comedy actors of the modern age bounce off of each other in an over the top buddy shoot’em up!? That’s at least what we were promised in the trailers, but if there’s one thing that Atomic Blonde (and admittedly lots of other movies) has taught me, it’s that trailers aren’t always the best at telling you what a movie will ACTUALLY be about. I know; SHOCKING revelation there! Does the team up between these two titans of Hollywood blockbusters manage to work even better together than they do as individuals, or was this a team up worse than when Pouty Superman fought with Even Poutier Batman for no reason whatsoever? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) who is a TOP NOTCH bodyguard with his own security company that’s apparently richer than half their clients considering how styling him and his crew are, but his idyllic life of protecting the rich and powerful is abruptly brought to an end when someone he’s supposed to be protecting gets shot right the head by an unknown sniper. He spends the next few years stewing in his own self-loathing and is stuck protecting losers and drug addicted lawyers as he tries to climb his way back to the top. An opportunity presents itself though when super hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel L Jackson) is to be brought before an international court to testify against the Belarusian Dictator (Gary Oldman) who everyone seems to know committed NUMEROUS war crimes, but only Kincaid has the evidence… for some reason. Michael is given a chance to possibly redeem himself if he can get Darius to The Netherlands in one piece as the Belarusian Dictator is sending out a lot of hired goons to put him in a body bag before he can testify. That’s not the REAL problem though. No, what’s REALLY gonna make this the mission from hell is that Darius is a TOTAL asshole who likes to do things dirty which clashes with Michael’s preference of being clean and professional about everything he does. It’s like The Odd Couple, but with guns and a lot more swearing! I don’t recall Walter Matthau calling people mother fucker before shooting them in the head! Can these two get along JUST long enough for Darius to testify and put that dictator behind bars once and for all? Will Michael finally redeem himself and get his life back on track after delivering Darius to the international authorities, or will he end up shooting him in the head out of sheer frustration before that? Seriously, does Samuel L Jackson own the rights to the words mother fucker? He HAS to be getting royalties considering how much he says that!
The Glass Castle and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate
Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton
Based… on a True Story. Ugh… is there any other phrase in the English language (other than Starring Jai Courtney) that sends a bigger chill down my spine? Trying to parse out which decisions a film makes that are due to the source material is not an easy task (especially when you don’t KNOW the true story to begin with) and it makes judging a movie with a well-rounded opinion THAT much harder to pull off since it works on different levels. Sure, ANY adaptation is gonna have some changes when going from one medium to another, but adapting something that ACTUALLY happened by its very nature practically begs to be judged on merits that are different from any other movie. So does this family drama manage to be enjoyable in its own right, or am I gonna have to read the book and do a whole bunch of research after the fact to TRULY understand what it’s going for? Let’s find out!!
The movie is an adaptation of Jeannette Wall’s memoir of the same name and we follow her as an adult (Brie Larson) as well as a child (Ella Anderson and Chandler Head); discovering how the latter is informing the former and learning about the pleasant as well as not so pleasant aspects of growing up with an abusive alcoholic father Rex (Woody Harrelson) with big ideas but too many personal demons to follow through on any of them. Along for the ride are her siblings Lori, Brian, and Bridgette (Sarah Snook, Olivia Kate Rice, Sadie Sink, Josh Caras, Iain Armitage, Charlie Stowell, Bridgette Lundy-Paine, Eden Grace Redfield, and Shree Crooks) as well as their mother Rose Mary (Naomi Watts) who all deal with their father in their own ways; though none of them come out of their life with him unscathed. Still, they all turned out well enough I guess, especially Jeannette who’s working for a big New York magazine and is engaged to a super-rich guy! Everything’s going great, right!? Well… maybe not, especially when Mom and Dad show up in New York and start squatting in an abandoned building. Will Jeannette be able to make peace with the way her father behaved when she was growing up? What exactly are her parents even doing in New York in the first place? Is Woody Harrelson able to NOT be likable, even when playing a total jerk!? Heck, he managed to stay at least SOMEWHAT charming in Natural Born Killers!
The Big Sick and all the images you see in this review are owned by Amazon Studios and Lionsgate
Directed by Michael Showalter
I try to keep up with who the big up and coming comedians are, but I often find myself under a giant rock when something like this comes out starring a guy who I’ve CERTAINLY seen in other movies like Fist Fight and Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, but wasn’t aware of his output beyond that. I’ve never seen Silicon Valley which seems to be Kumail Nanjiani’s biggest role to date (though he DID play Prismo in Adventure Time) so this is gonna be the first time that I’ve seen him in a starring role as opposed to a funny secondary character in REALLY mediocre or outright awful comedies, and apparently it’s somewhat autobiographical which makes it even MORE representative of what this guy is all about. Does Kumail’s big debut as a leading man in his own life story manage to hit the mark and hopefully launch him into super stardom, or is this just a failed vanity project whose only purpose will be as a piece of trivia for Silicon Valley fans? Let’s find out!
The movie is based on the real story about Kumail Nanjiani’s relationship with Emily V Gordon (played by Zoe Kazan but Emily V Gordon is the co-writer here) and the hardships they had to endure along the way. Kumail is living the Stand-Up Comedy dream of a crappy apartment and shitty comedy club gigs while Emily is working towards her masters in Psychology when the two of them meet and quickly fall for each other. Sadly, life keeps getting in the way of their happiness as Kumail’s mother and father (Zenobia Shroff and Anupam Kher) still expect him to marry a Pakistani woman and he doesn’t have the heart to either confront his parents about this or to tell Emily about their plans for him. Things eventually come to a head, I won’t spoil too much here, but there’s a tragedy that happens where Emily is in the hospital and Kumail has no idea what to do; especially when her parents (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano) enter the picture and are immediately skeptical of Kumail. Now Kumail is stuck in the worst of all cases; trying to coddle two sets of parents who are looking out for their kids and making terrible mistakes, and also trying to figure out exactly what he wants and how hard he’s willing to fight for it. Will Emily overcome whatever illness has struck her so severely? Will the two of them manage to overcome whatever issues they may have and properly fight for each other’s happiness? Does anyone else think this might be a new benchmark for romantic comedies!? Maybe not one of the BEST, but it sure feels like it’s gonna have an impact, right!?
My Little Pony: The Movie and all the images you see in this trailer talk are owned by Lionsgate and Hasbro
Directed by Jayson Thiessen
Despite being such a popular series with a fan base that is heavily invested in the creative side of the process as much as it is in the show itself, there really hasn’t been much said about the My Little Pony movie that’s been in production. Heck, it honestly feels like Equestria Girls, which was a spin off that only got a limited theatrical release, had MUCH more fanfare and anticipation surrounding it than something Hasbro is actually risking quite a bit of money on. Okay, there’s no way we’re talking Transformers money here, but there’s no way a feature length animated feature with celebrity voices THIS famous was less than what they invested in freaking Jem and the Holograms which had its first trailer out five months before its release compared to four months for this film. Still, an uneven marketing campaign doesn’t always spell doom for a film (*cough* Wonder Woman *cough*), and even if it’s a sign that the studio doesn’t have faith in the final product… well go ask Newmarket Films how that worked out with Donnie Darko. Either way, let’s find out!!
Okay, so there’s no getting around it. The movie looks PRETTY terrible based on this trailer. The first thing you’ll notice is that the art style is quite different from the series which isn’t ALWAYS a bad thing (watching it for the first time, I was somewhat reminded of the changes made for the Spongebob Squarepants movie), but it doesn’t come off as an IMPROVEMENT and there are clearly areas where they were cutting corners; most notably with the copious use of CG for the buildings and backgrounds.