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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Sleight (2017)

Is this what Criss Angel is up to nowadays?

Bo (Jacob Latimore) is a young guy living on the rough and tough streets of L.A., trying to get by and make a living for him and his little sister. But instead of doing what most of his friends are doing, like hustling, committing crimes, and selling drugs, Bo is keeping himself straight by performing magic on the streets. But honestly, after the death of his parents, it’s getting harder and harder for Bo to keep a roof over his head, so eventually, he turns to this life of crime where he falls under the tutelage of the local drug dealer (Dule Hill), who does not take kindly to people messing around with his stuff. But while all of this is happening, Bo meets Holly (Seychelle Gabriel) who, despite having a college education and plenty of other dreams in life, instantly falls for him. Now, Bo has more of a reason to live, survive and have all the things that he should want, but for some reason, the drug world just isn’t all that forgiving and it’s up to Bo to figure out just how the heck to get by it all. Then, something mysterious appears on his arm and things get odd.

Like really, really odd.

Eh. I’ve had more.

I have to give Sleight the benefit of the doubt in that it’s a low-budget film, with an incredibly diverse cast and relatively original premise. And yes, even a part of me is willing to forgive and get by all of the issues and problems had with this thing, just based solely on the fact that it’s so low-budget and got a lot working against it. But still, for some reason, I can’t get past the fact that Sleight, despite showing plenty of promise, never fully comes together.

In a way, it’s as if the budget needed to be bigger in order for director/co-writer J.D. Dillard to fully complete his vision. Clearly, some things got lost in the shuffle and it shows; there are far too many long-winding scenes where two characters are just sitting in a room, sort of talking, and seeming as if they’re going to never stop. In other words, yes, it’s called “character-development”, but it feels different here in Sleight – it’s as if Dillard had all of these scenes put in, because he didn’t have enough money to do other things.

Maybe this is just me talking, but either way, it slows the movie down to a halt.

And it doesn’t help that these characters aren’t the least bit interesting. Latimore is an interesting, bright, young talent who is surely going to go on and do great things, but his role here as Bo, when it’s not hitting every convention to be expected with a young whippersnapper growing up on the streets of L.A. (minus the whole magician angle), feels weak and almost underwritten. We’re supposed to see all of these different sides to him, but really, it’s just one where he always looks like a patron saint, taking care of all those around him, no matter what, and against all odds.

Giving David Blaine a run for his money. That guy’s still alive, right?

Dillard tries to even make his situation more interesting and therefore, compelling, but even that feels like it can get lost. A late-minute twist comes literally out of nowhere and while definitely cool, almost feels like it was thrown in there because Dillard got an extra check thrown his way from WWE Studios (who also helped distribute it). And I know a lot of what I’m complaining about is how it has a small-budget and clearly shows, but that’s not all it – it’s more that it’s a movie with a solid premise, yet, doesn’t take full advantage of it, mostly because it wants to play all of these different sides.

Dillard seems like he wants it to be a honest, raw, and gritty tale about growing up on the streets of L.A., but also wants it to be a sweet, youthful and lovely look at young love. Dillard also seems like he wants it to be a stone-cold drama about drugs, crime, and bad people, but also wants it to be about a kid possibly developing superpowers, or something of that nature. Honestly, it’s a mixed-bag overall, because it offers so many different sides and angles, yet, never fully comes together on one.

Just one. That’s all it needed. But nope. Couldn’t do that.

Consensus: Budget constraints aside, Sleight is a messy movie that’s filled with ideas and possibilities, but ultimately, never comes together perfectly. Oh, and yeah, its budget holds it back.

4.5 / 10

Wish the force was strong enough to get more “0’s” on them checks.

Photos Courtesy of:Indiewire

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Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

Yeah, I don’t know either.

It’s the 28th century, and special operatives Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevigne), whenever they’re not working together to maintain order throughout the human territories, are also trying hard to figure out just what they’re doing together. Are they in love? Do they want to get married? Or do they just want to keep on doing what they’re doing, because it’s easy, simple and not all that made for dedication. Whatever the answer to their dilemma may be, it doesn’t matter, because they soon gather an assignment from the minister of defense (Herbie Hancock), to embark on a mission to Alpha, the ever-expanding metropolis where diverse species gather to share knowledge and culture for a hefty fee. But both Valerian and Laureline realize that something is off about their discovery and because of that, they’re hunted from all over the place, forcing them to run all over space and hop on different planets, where something odd and interesting is happening just about all of the time.

Blade Runner?

So yeah, Luc Besson is clearly going completely out of his way to ensure that the world gets a dose of Valerian and because of that, the man deserves some credit and above all else, respect. Word is, he not just put took a pay-cut on this one, but even went so far as to put his own money in the project; it’s currently the most expensive independent flick ever made and it shows. The movie is, for lack of a better word, beautiful; the CGI-team must have been hard-at-work, day and night, without any sleep whatsoever, trying to make sure that every piece of this crazily original and wild fantasy world was explored and shown to perfection.

It also does help get us past the fact that the movie’s story and script are troubling, to say the least.

But it’s obvious what Besson is doing here – clearly it’s been over two decades since we got the Fifth Element and because of that, we’ve got something of a new one for Generation-Y. In that sense, the movie can be pretty fun, because it’s so willing to be as ridiculous and as nutty as that movie, but at the same time, it doesn’t always work out. For example, the central romance between Delevingne and DeHaan, while somewhat cute, never works in this great, big universe where crazy, ugly-looking creatures show up left and right, spouting gibberish. It’s as if Besson wanted to have it both ways and because of that, the movie doesn’t always work and never quite figures out what it wants to be.

Uh, Avatar?

But Valerian is also a fun movie, that enjoys its own zaniness. It doesn’t have to always make sense of its universe, its characters, or even its central conflict – all it has to do is offer enough weirdness and electricity to remind us why these kinds of sci-fi movies, especially from Besson, can be a joy to watch. The movie doesn’t always figure out what it wants to do, what it wants to say, or hell, even where it’s going, but it does move so quick, it’s hard to always care.

And yes, the movie is almost two-and-a-half hours and somehow, yeah, it does go by.

Granted, there’s rough patches all throughout, but that’s expected here. Valerian may not be the cleanest, or smartest movie out there on the market, but Besson seems like he truly adores and cares for this material, regardless of if anybody else does. He’s putting it all out there on the line and while it may be too hard to ask for someone to pay for his water, or electric for the next month, I don’t think it’s too hard to say, “Hey, go check it out.” It’s weird and it’s supposed to be, so just get a little used to it and try to have some fun.

Please. Do it for Luc. He needs us all now, more than ever.

Consensus: Big, bright, loud, and ambitious, Valerian is certainly an original, but is also certainly uneven and a bit messy, making it feel like a cluster of a lot of different things that don’t always come together, but still somehow compel.

6 / 10

Surfing U.S.A. Or wherever the hell Luc’s got ’em at.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Girls Trip (2017)

Damn. I miss my girls.

It’s been a very, very long time since best friends Ryan (Regina Hall), Sasha (Queen Latifah), Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Dina (Tiffany Haddish) all got together and just acted wild and crazy. After all, they’re all grown up with Ryan becoming a huge celebrity/author, Lisa becoming a mother and divorcee who doesn’t get out much, Sasha becoming a gossip-blogger, and Dina, well, not really doing much except losing jobs and not really knowing what’s going on around her. That said, it’s about time that they all got together and they do so when they travel to New Orleans for the annual Essence Festival. Of course, they’re there because it’s all on Ryan’s tab, but it’s also because they just miss what they used to have and need to remember what it was like to just have a good time with your girlfriends. But certain issues with their personal lives, how much time has passed, and certain secrets, constantly hold them back from fully loving and exploring the weekend like they should. Eventually, it’s all going to come to a head and, possibly, it may result in this being the last trip these gals ever take together again.

Hopefully not United.

Girls Trip is everything that Rough Night should have been, minus the whole dead-stripper angle. It’s funny, well-written, fun, well-acted, and absolutely feels like you’re involved with the same exact party that these gals are in, committing all sorts of crazy, wild and wacky shenanigans. Of course, it does help that a good portion of the movie, as well as the jokes themselves, are in fact scripted and not just made up on the spot by whoever’s turn it is to speak, but still, that almost doesn’t matter.

The fact is that Girls Trip is funny and deserves to be seen.

It’s the kind of movie that gets off to a slow start because it’s trying to find its groove and has to develop certain things like conflict, characters, etc., but after awhile, gets itself together and all of a sudden, becomes a great time. It’s the kind of studio-comedy that does all the things that are necessary to make a big-budget, studio-comedy work, but so rarely actually do; instead of putting together a neat premise, with funny jokes, and even more interesting characters, everything’s just sort of jumbled together and made up, in hopes that the audience doesn’t know or even care.

But with Rough Night and the House, it’s hard not to notice these issues. It’s a sign that more and more studio-comedies need to be heavily scripted and oh yeah, funnier, too. Once again, all of these gals are to be thanked for keeping this movie as funny as it needs to be, but writers Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver deserve a little shout-out, too – not just because they wrote a script with ridiculous situations and funny jokes, but because they actually went the extra mile into having us, believe it or not, care.

So. Much. Gossip.

Girls Trip reminds me a bit of Bridesmaids in that it definitely features gals being just as dirty, just as naughty, and just as raunchy as the guys, but also in that it’s a so-called “chick flick” that feels very honest and rash about women friendships and the certain bond that can be created with them. It doesn’t back away from showing just how these women all connect to one another, why they were friends were in the first place, and why they may all give a hoot about what happens to the other, at the end of the day. They could have all been types, too, but thankfully, the movie actually gives them all personalities and certain tics about them that make them, well, human.

Crazy, right?

But like I said, the cast helps out with this, too. Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith (nice little Set it Off reunion), and the show-stopper, Tiffany Haddish, are all great here and help one another out, whenever it seems like the jokes may be slacking. However, that so rarely happens because there’s just a certain wild and crazy energy to this all that makes you not just feel like you’re apart of all the fun, but that you’re getting to know these gals better, as time goes on, too. Rather than making us feel like we’re hanging out with a bunch of strangers that we could care very little, or less about, we actually get to know, understand, and at the end, come to love them. Sure, they may be problematic and a little flawed, but if anything, that allows them to become more human and understandable, therefore, making the time spent with them (which is a bit long, by the way), all the more enjoyable.

Consensus: Fun, exciting, and oh yeah, pretty darn funny, Girls Trip features women doing their thing, having fun, not making any excuses for it, and oh yeah, reminding Hollywood what can happen when a little more thought is put into crafting an effective studio-comedy.

7.5 / 10

Not raining? Oh wait. Never mind. It’s style.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Dunkirk (2017)

Us Americans have it so easy.

In May 1940, Germany advanced into France, trapping Allied troops on the beaches of Dunkirk. Under air and ground cover from British and French forces, the troops were all evacuated from the beach using every serviceable naval and civilian vessel that could be found, but because these vessels were constantly exploding from enemy fire, or also because there was such a short supply, most of the soldiers ended up standing around, waiting for anything to take them home. After all, they could practically see their home land, how hard could it be to just get over there? Well, as we see, the battle raged on, with those out there on the sea, on the ground, or in the air, all helping out to ensure that, by the end of this mission, all of the French, British, Belgian and Dutch surviving soldiers would be safely evacuated. Then again, this is the war we’re talking about here and as people know, it can be awfully predictable.

Clearly looking for a Christian Bale-type from the Newsies era.

Christopher Nolan does something very interesting and tricky here with Dunkirk that makes it more than just your typical, run-of-the-mill, big, and bloated dramatization; rather than showing this mission from one point-of-view and leaving it at that, he decides to take on three-to-four different ones, all taking place sort of different times, in different locations, and for different reasons. It’s hard to fully explain without having already seen Dunkirk, but it’s a sign that Nolan, someone who is well-known for his awe-inspiring talent, has some more tricks up his sleeve than just giving us take-by-take tale of a real life event in WWII.

At the end of the day, it still is that, but it’s better than you’d imagine. Trust me.

And it’s mostly better because Nolan, no matter how far and wide he stretches with this material, always has us feeling as if we are right there, on the battlefield, with these fellow soldiers, trying to just survive. Nolan rarely ever leaves the battlefield once we get going and because of that, the next hour-and-a-half, or so, feel like an absolute rush of blood to the head; there’s a finger on the trigger and you can feel it the whole way through, and it never lets up. In a way, it’s almost too tiring, but it’s incredibly exciting, tense, and even unpredictable, which is a hard feat to accomplish in a WWII movie that’s already about a very famous moment in said real war.

But Nolan doesn’t forget to remind us that, even when we are shrieking, jumping up and down, and clamoring for our own lives, even when we’re tucked away, safe as can be in our over-packed movie theaters, that above all else, war is hell. Nolan isn’t exactly making a statement with Dunkirk, as much as he’s just trying to honor the brave souls who tried to stay alive, as well as those who couldn’t, but it is hard to walk away from this not thinking that war, believe it or not, is an absolute hell whole, where the strongest and bravest of men may even finds themselves petrified. It’s hard not to get swept up in everything that Nolan’s doing here and it’s nice to see all of his effort finally pay-off.

Sure beats Interstellar.

OH EM GEE! HARRY!

Then again, there is that feeling that when Dunkirk is over, it’s over and you can sort of go on with your day. This maybe has less to do with the movie, as much as it has to do with me, myself and I, but when Dunkirk‘s over, it’s done and that’s it. The movie hits maybe an-hour-and-47-minutes (Nolan’s shortest in, I don’t know, forever), but it goes by so quickly that you don’t even bother to check the time, or notice; you’re just so taken aback by everything that’s happening on the huge screen, that it almost feels like a disservice to divert your attention elsewhere.

And this isn’t to say that everything Nolan does here, doesn’t deliver, because it most definitely does. By the same token, however, it’s also not hard to sit down, think, and wonder whether or not this is just another big and bloated dramatization. It’s not typical and it’s not run-of-the-mill, but it is, above all else, a dramatization and because of that, it feels a tad too normal and conventional. It’s scary and not safe, but still, normal.

And for a Christopher Nolan movie, honestly, that’s a bit of a letdown.

Then again, may just be me.

Consensus: Big, loud, aggressive, scary, and ambitious as hell, Dunkirk is a sure sign that Nolan has returned to his full-scale roots, with better results this time around.

8.5 / 10

Good luck, boys. You’re sure as hell going to need it.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Roll Bounce (2005)

Is this what the kids nowadays call “blading”……yo?

After the death of his mom, Xavier (Bow Wow) has been having a bit of a rough go. His dad has hit a serious case of depression, his little sister needs someone to look up to, and yeah, he basically just doesn’t know where he wants to go, nor what he actually wants to do with his life. The only thing in his life that he is certain about is roller-skating, but even that’s hit a bit of a rough patch now with his local skate palace being torn down. Now, without one near by, Xavier and his buddies have to travel all the way uptown, where the people are richer, more priveleged, and oh yeah, whiter. Obviously, Xavier and his buddies stick out like sore-thumbs amongst this very rich and preppy crowd, but they make it all work by just being themselves, skating their assess off, and having a good time through it all. But with local skate legend Sweetness (Wesley Jonathan) back in town and looking to maintain his territory, Xavier and his boys are going to have to step up their games.

Both on and off the rink.

Lean with it….

Roll Bounce is pretty conventional and formulaic, but it’s also the kind of movie that gets by solely on the fact that it’s so sweet, so earnest, and so easygoing, that it’s easy to just forget about all of its issues and enjoy the time you have with it. Granted, there are plenty of problems and, if you’re looking very, very close, you can probably see more bad then good, but for me, Roll Bounce feels like the right kind of soft-hearted nostalgia that means well, isn’t trying to change the world, and just have some fun. In other words, it’s what every movie, ever made, should aspire to be.

But once again, there are those problems that keep Roll Bounce away from achieving some actual greatness. For one, its plot is a little flimsy and at times, doesn’t seem to really be making much sense of itself. While it’s not all that hard to do a coming-of-age tale, it’s also a lot harder to sort of screw it up, where your messages about growing up, becoming an adult, and figuring out just who, or what, you are, don’t fully come together. Xavier, on paper, is our traditional protagonist for a story such as this, and while it’s not hard to sympathize for a character who has already endured so much hardship, it’s not hard to sort of not care about any of it all.

Of course, that isn’t to discredit Bow Wow, or anybody else in this cast – the problem is purely a script issue.

….rock with it!

Director Malcolm D. Lee and screenwriter Norman Vance know how to set the mood and the tone for a movie taking place in the dog days of summer, where everything is catching up on itself, memories are being made, and yeah, people are getting a little tired of the damn heat, but when it comes to making a real compelling story out of it all, they sort of drop the ball. It’s just too melodramatic and cheesy at times to fully work; while it may appear to be a sort of sports movie, it is, in actuality, a family-drama that never gets all that interesting. Chi McBride is good as Xavier’s dad who has some real problems of his own, and had he been given his own movie, it probably would have worked, but put up against Xavier, his wacky and wild buddies, and whatever the hell they’re doing at the skating-rink, yeah, it feels odd.

That said, the tone here is quite infectious and it’s hard to really get past that. It’s close to two hours and yeah, it definitely doesn’t need to be; some characters get development and certain shadings that, quite frankly, don’t really matter, or even go anywhere. But the skating stuff, in and of itself, is what saves the movie, because whenever it seems like the story’s getting too far gone in its own head, thankfully, the bright colors, the loud music, the huge afro’s, and the constant rolling, take over and make things better.

If only for a small bit.

Consensus: Clearly an earnest and sweet piece of nostalgia, Roll Bounce gets by solely on its charm, and not anywhere near its story, or its sometimes odd script that doesn’t always have the faintest clue what it wants to be, or do.

6 / 10

Take the skates off and yeah, they’re just a bunch of punks! Get a job, ya damn kids!

Photos Courtesy of: Fox Searchlight

Five Minutes of Heaven (2009)

Forgive. Forget. Go a little crazy.

During the 1970s in Northern Ireland, times were tough and they were onlu getting tougher. The IRA was running rampant and people were dropping dead, for no real reasons other than because, well, it was a sign of the times. One such person was Joe Griffin’s older brother gets shot dead by the teenage leader of a UVF. It’s disturbed Joe so much that, all of these years later, now, as an older fella (James Nesbitt), he can’t quite get by in life. He is still haunted by that murder, as well as the memory of it, along with his brother. And it’s why, now nearly thirty years later, Joe is finally ready to meet his brother’s killer, Alistair Little (Liam Neeson), on live TV, with all sorts of producers and agents standing around, expecting some sort of huge emotional breakthrough that only reality television can provide. And well, they’ll most likely get that, except in this case, they won’t be expecting; see, Joe didn’t show up to this meeting for reconciliation, but to extract revenge for all of the pain and anguish that Alistair has caused on his life. It’s just a matter of getting the deed done that matters most.

The most adult game of “hide-n-go-seek” I’ve ever seen.

Five Minutes of Heaven, no matter which way you put it, works best because of the two great performances in the leads, mostly Nesbitt as the strange, deranged and incredibly disturbed Joe. Nesbitt’s a pretty great actor and has been able to play these kind of angry roles before, but never this deranged and crazy, and it’s a nice change-of-pace for him, because while he could have easily gone overboard, he never does. Instead, he plays it short, small, and subtle, making this person’s pain felt the whole time throughout; we know that the man is suffering, but the movie doesn’t have to tell us that at all. Just one look at Nesbitt’s upset face is more than enough to clue us in to what’s really wrong.

And yeah, Liam Neeson is good, too, but he doesn’t show up nearly as much as Nesbitt. That said, he provides a very interesting character who, in any other movie, would have easily been a cold-hearted and evil villain, without any heart, soul, or humanity to be found. But instead, he’s actually a much rather soft and understood man, who has guilt, who feels shame, and wants to be forgiven for all of the awful actions that he’s caused, giving us a chance to see the true human underneath the brooding.

In other words, two great performances in an otherwise fine movie.

Halloween or IRA?

All that said, Five Minutes of Heaven is still a good movie because it asks all sorts of questions about guilt, forgiveness, death, life, and sadness, but also seems interested in actually answering them. We’re told that old wounds can heal with time and separation, but at the same time, we see someone as torn-up and destroyed as Joe, that almost all of that goes out the window. The movie doesn’t always get the chance to answer everything it wants, but the ideas and elements of the story it brings up, guess what? It actually develops and seems to go somewhere with.

Even if the ending is a bit silly. But hey, not all movies have to be absolutely, positively perfect. Sometimes, all they have to do is make you think, watch, and get excited, if only for short, brief instances. Five Minutes of Heaven sort of does that, but also allows for us to feast our eyes on two of the best Irish actors working today.

Aside from the one and only Colin Farrell. I mean, honestly, how charming is that guy!

Consensus: Benefiting from two amazing performances in Nesbitt and Neeson, Five Minutes of Heaven is a smart, challenging thriller that has more on its mind than guns and murder.

7.5 / 10

Some men just want to watch random cars burn.

Photos Courtesy of: Michael McVey, SkiffleboomFlick Diary

Downfall (2004)

Sometimes, the cowards way is all you’ve got. Actually, no. Not really.

It’s the tail-end of the war and well, things aren’t looking so good for the Nazis. Their constantly getting killed, losing ground, and seeing an end in sight, with them on the losing end. And since he can feel the noose beginning to tighten around his neck, Adolf Hitler (Bruno Ganz), at the peak of his power, decides that it’s time to get his whole empire together in his underground bunker, where they’ll not only be able to wait out the end of the war, but possibly even have a good time, too. It’s odd, too, because while they’re drinking, playing games, having dinner, and listening to music, the Allied Powers are inching closer and closer towards their bunker; some of those in the bunker know this, but decide not to tell the others. Eventually though, it becomes all too real to hide behind the lie and people begin to panic and wonder, “What’s next?” After all, if these Nazis are quite and tried, what could happen to them? That’s when everyone involved hatches the idea to end their lives, right then and there, before it all gets too scary for them.

A courtesy that, I bet, their victims would have loved to have, too.

Who’s that?

But hey, okay, I’ll stop it there. That’s my last bit of generalizing because a movie like Downfall could easily be held up to scrutiny for telling a tale about the last hours and days in the lives of some evil, inhumane and incredibly flawed human beings, and as a result, could be flawed for that very same reason. It’s the kind of movie you never thought would ever be made, but for some reason, here it is and it’s around for a little over two-and-a-half-hours, reminding you that Nazis, Hitler and many others like him did exist and guess what? They took the easy way out. Case closed. End of story.

But director Oliver Hirschbiegel and writer Bernd Eichinger pull-off something smart here in that they make this tale, while controversial to say the least, every bit as compelling as you wouldn’t expect it to be. For some reason, it’s a movie that doesn’t take a stance on Hitler, the Nazis, or any of the actions that they committed during the war, but more or less, show them in pure desperation, without any roads to turn down, and nowhere else to go. In this sense, then Downfall should please any person who still feels the absolute need and want to watch Hitler and the Nazis cower with fear and depression, expecting their lives to be coming close to an end and having nowhere else to go, but it actually doesn’t come off like this.

If anything, it’s a bit depressing.

But in an interesting way.

The movie never goes so far as to make us ever feel sympathy for these heinous human beings, but the movie doesn’t also forget to remind us that, at the end of the day, they too were people and as such, deserve to be seen and judged for that. They may not have all been perfect and in fact, they were all pretty awful and clearly knew what horrible stuff they were up to, but yes, they were humans – if anything, that may make them even scarier, showing just how deep down and dark someone can and will go for the sole sake of power and respect.

Once again, not generalizing, but just stating cold hard facts.

It’s okay, honey. You’ll be out of here soon. Just shut up.

Anyway, Downfall is an interesting movie and although it is long, it’s hard to get totally bored by what you’re watching. There’s something inherently compelling about sitting around and waiting for a bunch of evil people to meet their maker and come to the acceptance that everything’s all over for them; it’s not as if we want to see this all the time, but for some reason, with these people, it’s a lot more compelling to watch. Even though we do expect everyone to die, the movie still has us sitting around, waiting, and watching, for whatever is to come next. It’s just solid writing and directing, and considering how rough the subject-material may have been to bring to the big screen, it’s even more surprising how much it all works.

And of course, the performances from top to bottom are great because, like the writing and direction, they’re all portraying these human beings as, well, human beings. Bruno Ganz probably deserves the highest praise as Adolf Hitler, because not only do we see the pure rage and anger lying within this very unlikable person, but we also get to see the small, intimate moments with him as well. Like, for instance, the scenes he has with Juliane Köhler’s Eva Braun, in which we see a man genuinely happy and in love, but also realizing that his despicable and because of that, it’s very hard to feel anything for him but just utter and pure contempt. But still, Ganz does a great job of never really falling into a sheer and absolute parody, while also realizing that there were small, certain tics about this man that ought to be studied and looked at.

If only just so that we never have another one of him, ever, ever again.

Fine. There. I’m done now.

Consensus: While no doubt a long trip to take with some awfully despicable and evil people, Downfall also provides plenty of interesting food-for-thought about these people, and also by giving us a glimpse into some place we never expected to find ourselves at.

8.5 / 10

“Boys, we’re screwed.”

Photos Courtesy of: Movie Micah, The Blog of Big Ideas

Lady Macbeth (2017)

Arranged marriages are all the rage.

In the year 1865 in rural England, a young woman, Katherine (Florence Pugh), is in a loveless marriage to an older man, Alexander (Paul Hilton). She doesn’t care for the man and in fact, he’s quite awful to her, but she puts up with it all because her father couldn’t take care of her any longer and now she’s got plenty of time to just sit around, drink, and eat, while occasionally having to sexually satisfy her hubby who, for some odd reason, doesn’t actually like being physically intimate. Either way, yeah, Katherine’s not happy about the arrangement, which is why she takes full advantage of the freedom she gets when her husband heads out for a business trip and is planning on being gone for quite some time. But her idea of “freedom” gets to be a bit much when she starts something of a relationship with the helper (Cosmo Jarvis), who enjoys having some hot, steamy sex with the lady of the house, but at the same time, also understands the dangers. This is something that Katherine doesn’t fully take into consideration and it all comes back to hit her in the face when people start coming around and sniffing about her place, wondering what’s going on.

Stop smiling!

Lady Macbeth is a pretty bleak film and because of that, it’s actually pretty hard to enjoy. Even in its 89 minutes, it’s quite repetitive and almost feeling like its script was written without any dialogue at all, but instead, just actions and sounds. In that way, it’s a movie that deserves and requires a lot of time, focus and attention, but mostly, it gets by on being a little dark, a little creepy, and a little eerie.

And yeah, that’s about it.

It does deserve to be said that director William Oldroyd approaches the material well; like stated before, there’s a lot of long, silent pauses where you can literally just hear the wind hitting the windows outside. Some may find this “boring”, but it works in this movie’s favor because it helps create an odd sense that something isn’t quite right here, even before bad stuff actually does start happening. And even when the supposed “bad stuff” does begin to happen, the movie thankfully doesn’t delve into any of the melodramatics you’d expect it to – it’s just chilling and creepy and that’s all it needed to be to get the job done.

Oh lord, The dreaded vial!

And yes, Florence Pugh is also pretty great in the lead role as Katherine who, over the hour-and-a-half, does a lot of changing (literally and figuratively), and finds a way to make all of the sides to her, at the very least, believable. That’s hard to do, too, with a character who we initially feel sympathy for, but know very little about, other than that she’s poor, in a crappy situation, and obviously miserable. However, Pugh has a certain look to her that makes any scene she’s in (which is every one), watchable, because she’s always on-edge and seeming like she’s one step ahead of us.

But like I said before, Lady Macbeth works because it is so chilling and, at times, disturbing. But at other times, it can’t help but feel like the same scene, over and over again, only just continuing on and on until it eventually hits the conclusion. Maybe this was intentional to give us a better sense of how empty and lame these character’s lives were, but it also does help but feel like a waste, even when the movie, like stated before, is so short in the first place. It’s one thing to not really have much of a script, but to have one, with, essentially, the same scene happening, over and over again.

It’s just lazy, honestly.

But man oh man. Thank heavens for Florence Pugh. That gal’s going to go some places.

Consensus: As short as it may be, Lady Macbeth still gets by as a chilling and upsetting psychological thriller, anchored by a solid performance from Pugh.

7 / 10

There’s that happiness again!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

The War of the Rise of the Dawn of the Why Are These Titles So Long?

After their last battle with the humans, due to the actions of evil Koba, Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his apes are still fighting for their lives and are still forced into a deadly conflict with the humans, who see their extinction coming and coming very soon. That’s why the ruthless colonel (Woody Harrelson) wants Caesar and all of the apes gone, prompting the apes to suffer unimaginable losses. And as a result, Caesar sets out to find this colonel and take him down, once and for all. But on the trip, Caesar and his fellow band of trustees find something odd is happening – people are losing their ability to speak. How, or better yet, why? Caesar doesn’t know, or understand, but the further he adventures into this cold, dark and cruel world, the more answers he gets and the more he discovers about the possible end of the world, where the apes may take over, the humans may become extinct, and nothing will ever be the same again. It’s only a matter of time, though, and it’s a coin-toss of who is going to win this battle and continue to habitat the planet.

Comedic-relief? In the ape-apocalypse!??!

This new, rough, tough and re-vamped Apes franchise has been a pretty solid one, to say the least. I say “has” because apparently, it’s going to be the last. Well, at least, for now, and it’s odd because the movie seems like it still could continue on, getting better and better, and make more money for all of those involved. It’s one of the rare franchises that, if over, I’d be a little sad to see gone because, hey, these movies were actually pretty good and considering that the word “franchise” nowadays brings about gag-reflexes, it’s nice to have something that makes up for all of the marketing and tie-ins.

That said, War for the Planet of the Apes is still a fine movie that, whether or not it being the end, still works because it presents a pretty dark and disturbing future that the past two movies have tried to build-on. The only issue that I’ve had with these movies, and especially this one, is that they’re just so dour and mean at times, it almost feels like they’re trying way too hard. Director Matt Reeves knows exactly what he’s doing with this material for the second time around and it’s clear that he’s taking this premise, this world, and this idea incredibly seriously, without barely any jokes or goofiness thrown in there for good measure, but often times, it feels like he’s maybe trying to out-serious himself.

It’s basically the only summer blockbuster you’ll ever see that may depress you and mean to do so in the process.

And that isn’t to say that movies such as these can’t be ultra, super duper serious, because that’s fine; in this world, where the apes have taken over, the humans are struggling, and yet, for some reason, we’re still supposed to root for the more powerful species, things are allowed to be told to us without a punchline. But Reeves can also get a little sucked into this sadness and depression and because of that, the movie can often feel slow, plodding and above all else, a little boring. It’s too in-love with its own dourness that it’s almost too afraid to get its act together and start moving somewhere, hell, anywhere.

But as usual, once it does get going, War is quite the ride, mostly because, like I’ve stated before, Reeves knows what he’s doing with this tale. It’s actually quite interesting how the story plays-out – not by hitting the same sort of beats and conventions that we’re used to seeing with these kinds of stories, but keeping us, the audience, in the dark, for as much and as long as possible. Reeves always seems to have a little trick up his sleeve and because of that, the movie almost feels dangerous, as if anything bad, disastrous, or awful, could happen at literally any second.

“The horror.”

I know, it sounds all so simple and easy, but trust me, this is the kind of stuff that so many movies get wrong and/or can’t do, like at all.

But that’s why War, even despite it being the saddest thing since Trump’s Twitter, still works – it does get moving and can be fun, exciting, and hell, even a little scary. It’s the right kind of blockbuster and honestly, I’d say more about it, but basically, it does everything that the last movie just did, except also wants to provide some closure. And sure, that’s fine; possibly saying goodbye Andy Serkis’ Caesar is a bummer, because Serkis is always so good in the roles, as well as the fellow new apes along for the ride, like Steve Zahn’s possible comic-relief. But a possible ending also does provide a better hope and future for the state of franchise flicks, in that they don’t always have to be about the Easter-eggs, the tie-ins, the merchandise, the references, or even about the greater universe.

Honestly, all it needs to be about is telling a good story, with good characters, and a compelling arch that we want to see continue on, for many, many more movies. That’s what this franchise was able to do – even though, back in the day, it seemed like it was a dead brand – and it’s the hope that for the future franchises to come, they’ll take a lesson or two.

Let’s just hope they brighten up the damn rooms, though.

Consensus: Undeniably thrilling, emotional and exciting, War provides all of the action and adventure, as well as the darkness you’d expect from this ramped-up franchise by now.

8 / 10

And they’re not monkeying around! That works in this context, right?

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer (2017)

Can’t trust anybody. Not even randomly kind Jewish men.

Norman (Richard Gere), a New York fixer, knows the right people and can get things done. He also can tend to be a bit overzealous and, as a result, begin to scare more people away, than actually bring them in and closer. Often too, his tactics can be a little odd and rub certain people the wrong way. But then again, those are the kinds of people Norman doesn’t want to really work with, which is why when an Israeli dignitary named Eshel (Lior Ashkenazi) comes to the city, Norman decides to impress the man by buying him some very expensive shoes and seeing if they can build on some sort of friendship. It works and he establishes a strong connection to the man, and it helps him when Eshel becomes Israel prime minister a few years later and, get this, actually remembers Norman and wants him to help out in his office. Norman accepts, but also wishes that he was a lot closer to Eshel and the inner-workings. Eventually, this causes issues for both men and will ultimately prove to be Norman’s unraveling, where his real life, all the secrets and lies that he’s kept throughout the years, finally come to lie.

“Trust me, it’s cold out.”

Norman feels like it’s based on a true story, but it really isn’t. In a way, writer/director Joseph Cedar seems to be basing this story off the numerous individuals who work in the strategy-world portion of politics and he doesn’t seem to be frowning upon them, nor even glamorizing them – in fact, he’s more or less just giving them the fair-shake they probably deserve. Political fixers, so often, are seen as heartless, tactful, and evil-doers who find a way to win and keep at it, no matter what. Why on Earth we look down upon these people as less than human, when in reality, they’re just really good at their jobs. And in Norman, the idea we get about political-fixers, as well as the title-character, is that being good at your job is one thing, but being a good and smart human being is another.

Although, that’s what I think.

See, the small issue with Norman is that the movie never really knows just what proves to be his actual fall-from-grace, because honestly, we never really get to see the rise, either. Of course, the word “Moderate” in the title probably says it all, but honestly, when your movie is built around the fact that your lead character doesn’t really accomplish a whole lot, yet, still falls down dramatically off the social-ladder, it’s hard to really feel any pain or emotion. We may care for this character, or even what he’s doing, but if we really don’t get the sense of what’s being accomplished and lost, then really, what’s the point?

Well, Israel’s got enough problems on its plate, honestly.

If anything, Norman proves to be another solid showcase for Richard Gere who, so late in his life, almost doesn’t care how big the movies he’s doing are. By now, he’s so happy to be able to work with these three-dimensional, interesting characters, that he’ll take the budget on, regardless. And as the title-character, Gere’s quite good here; he has every opportunity to play it silly and cartoonish, but thankfully, he strays away from that. In fact, what we see with Gere’s portrayal is a small, rather smart man who also just wants to be recognized, praised, and above all else, loved.

In a way, if you look closer and closer into Norman, the movie does show itself as an intimate character-study of this one relatively troubled man who, despite seeming to have it all, still wants a little more. Cedar is a smart director to know when to get in the way of his ensemble, but because he doesn’t and they’re all good, we see more sides to these characters than ever expected, especially Gere’s Norman. He begins to show his true shadows and signs that, once broken down, unveil a very unexcited and disappointing man. The movie doesn’t really hit as hard, or as heavy as it should, but considering there’s Gere here, it’s safe to say that he’s still an interesting enough character to watch wheel-and-deal for over two-hours.

Anybody else, anywhere else, probably would have been a pain.

Consensus: Though it never really delivers going any deeper than it should have, Norman still works as a smart, interesting character-study, anchored by an even better Richard Gere performance.

7 / 10

Someone give him a hug already!

Photos Courtesy of: Kenwood Theatre

The House (2017)

Cautionary tale?

Scott and Kate Johansen (Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler) have been planning their whole lives for their daughter’s moment she goes off to college. However, when the scholarship money falls though, they have to think of something and something quick, which eventually involves their close buddy Frank (Jason Mantzoukas). In other words, they put their brains together and think of something so crazy, so barbaric, and so insane, that hell, it just might work. That’s right, an underground casino where adults from all over the little town can come together, get wild, get crazy, throw money at the walls, and have a grand old time, as if they were young, free and without any damn responsibilities anymore. The only issue is that, for Scott, Kate, Frank, and well, everybody else, they are old and have something resembling responsibilities, making this casino a much more dangerous and scary place than any of them ever wanted it to become.

Homage to Scorsese? Or once again, just improv? Who knows.

It’s crazy to think a comedy starring two of the best, funniest, and brightest talents in the game, with plenty others surrounding them, would come and land with an absolute thud like the House did, but unfortunately, that’s what happened. It wasn’t screened for critics, it was barely advertised, and oh yeah, it didn’t really do well at the box-office, even despite both Ferrell and Poehler still being draws. What happened?

Well, the short is that it’s not a very good comedy.

But the long is that it’s just like every other studio comedy out there made in the world in that it features barely any story, cohesion, or interesting-writing, but instead, features a bunch of funny, incredibly talented people, just making everything up as they go along. Normally, I’d be disappointed with this, but considering that we literally just got the same thing a few weeks ago with Rough Night, it’s hard to really expect much else; without having to actually put any thought or effort into how these movies play-out, how the jokes build, and eventually, play out, the general idea is that you get a bunch of funny people around, put a camera in front of them, film, and let the magic happen.

Magic can occasionally happen in cases such as these and even in the House, there are some slight glimmers of true fun comedy. But the issue is that the laughs and fun happen so very few and far between one that, even at 80 minutes, it still feels like a stretch. Hell, you’d think that with such a short movie to begin with, that we wouldn’t have to sit through much and make this feel like more of a slog, but somehow, that’s exactly what happens. And yes, it’s exactly what happens when you don’t really put much of any effort into anything, other than getting a solid cast of funny people together.

Then again, maybe I’m putting too much thought into a movie like the House.

Children. They’re the future and why we do the crazy shit that we do.

Then again, maybe I’m not. Maybe I just appreciate it when a movie with as funny and as promising as a premise as the House, actually delivers on not just the funny, but also the promise, and gives us a, get this, a solid comedy. It doesn’t have to change the world, it doesn’t have to break down any barriers, and it sure as hell doesn’t have to be perfect – all it has to do is be funny and feel like it was at least written more than half-way through. The House doesn’t feel like that, though, and it not only suffers because of it, but so does everybody else, too.

And yes, this is to say that Poehler, Ferrell, Mantzoukas, and so many other well-known, talented and reliably funny people here who show up and give it their all, are indeed funny, but at times, it can’t help but feel like their talents are being wasted. Literally, not a single one of them play an actual character that makes sense, or at the very least, works in this movie’s small world; sometimes, even the bittiest kind of character-development can go a long way into helping us realize just why a person is why they are and why watching them is so funny to begin with. It’s simple movie-writing 101 and honestly, I shouldn’t even have to state this, but unfortunately, movies like the House exist and continue to come out, therefore, making it all the more understandable to bring up why a script matters.

Even for, yes, a comedy.

Consensus: Although everyone tries and can occasionally be funny, the House doesn’t live up to the promise of its premise, nor does it really have all that many laughs to help guide along its incredibly short 80-minute run-time.

4.5 / 10

What? Is there anything else you ought to do with money?

Photos Courtesy of: Kenwood Theatre

At First Sight (1999)

Eyes open or closed, we all know Mira Sorvino is downright beautiful.

Young architect Amy Benic (Mira Sorvino) needs a break from the busy high-life of Manhattan and decides to go out to the country-side, relax, and get her massage on. While she’s getting that on, she falls under the spell and hands of the masseur Virgil Adamson (Val Kilmer). She instantly clicks with him and realizes that there’s something between the two that’s as rare as it can be. Rare, because Virgil’s also blind and has no idea what she looks like, or anything else for that matter.

Watching all of these sappy, romantic-dramedies can honestly do a number on a person. Nicholas Sparks has dulled the senses so much, that even when something relatively sweet, sort of nice comes around, it’s hard to fully embrace it. For someone like me, I’m just so used to saccharine, annoying romantic-junk that yeah, it makes you forget about actual solid romantic-flicks out there in the world.

Sort of like At First Sight. But also, sort of not like At First Sight.

Let me explain.

Well, close enough.

Well, close enough.

Granted, it’s nothing special, but it works at being a piece of romantic-drama that you can root-root-root for the couple, and just hope that they end up together because you can see that they’re good people, have the best intentions for one another, and most of all, love each other like silly. Isn’t that what we all want to be reminded of when we watch sap-fests such as these? Well yes, as well as the ability to love and be loved is still out there and if you have a heart big enough to allow that into your soul, that even you can come under it’s spell? I think so, and I think that’s why I actually didn’t mind this movie as much as I was planning to.

Val Kilmer is a nice fit as our blind man for the two hours (way, way, way too long for my liking!), Virgil Adamson. Despite how he may be behind the scenes, Kilmer has always had a certain cool, suave charm about him, which is what works well for this character here, who could have easily just been a later-day saint who also happened to be blind. It’s also a nice refresher to see him play a much softer, more romantic-side, even though the movie surrounding him is, yes, corny and undeniably syrupy beyond belief.

But like I said, the guy’s so charming, he makes it work.

Daredevil totally ripped this movie off!

Daredevil totally ripped this movie off! Damn Ben Affleck!

Playing his love bird for the two hours (once again, way, way, way too long for my liking!), is Mira Sorvino as Amy. Sorvino is always a charmer and is as cute-as-a-button that whenever she smiles, it’s so easy to just feel all warm and gooey inside. She’s got that beautiful look to her that works to her advantage and it’s just great to see that in an actress that can make bad material like this work, even if we do see it coming a hundred-upon-a-hundred miles away. You actually believe that she could fall in love with a guy like this, knock down all of the problems of being blind, and just look at the person instead. It’s obvious stuff, but Sorvino and Kilmer make it work together and if it weren’t for these two in the roles, it’d be really hard to get through this thing.

Then, there’s Kelly McGillis who eventually shows up as Vrigil’s sister that is always there for him and watching over him and is okay, but also where the movie really starts to go off-the-rails. The first hour, while cheesy, is sweet, soft and enjoyable enough to where it’s a nice piece of time passing-by, because it’s never taking itself all that seriously. But then, miraculously, as soon as McGillis rears her head in, everything gets a bit bonkers and far too serious. It certainly doesn’t help the fact that she’s always yelling, upset, and crying about something going on. Thankfully, Nathan Lane is here to save the day and as usual, use his comedic-charm to his ability and have us love the guy like never before.

So when in doubt, just trust Nathan Lane.

Consensus: Is it predictable? Yes. Is it obvious? Yes. Is it long? Hell yes! Is it at least entertaining? Ehh, sure. At First Sight may not throw you any curve balls you won’t see coming at you miles away, but Kilmer and Sorvino at least make the material seem more than just your average, run-of-the-mill romantic-drama, even if that’s exactly what it is.

5 / 10

Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't you not supposed to pet those dogs or something?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t you not supposed to pet those kinds of dogs or something?

Photos Courtesy of: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Paris Can Wait (2017)

Be yourself, momma!

Anne (Diane Lane) is in Cannes with her husband Michael (Alec Baldwin), a prominent movie producer. As the festival ends she learns that the vacation she and her husband were supposed to go on in Paris will be slightly delayed as they need to go to Budapest first. They plan to fly to Paris, but the pilot suggests Anne not fly due to an ear infection. Michael’s producing partner Jacques (Arnaud Viard) offers to drive Anne to Paris himself. But here’s what Anne doesn’t know, or better yet, expect: Jacques is going to take it upon himself to not just wine and dine her, but also even take her to bed. Why? Or better yet, how could he? Well, it’s because he’s French and that’s just the sort of wacky things that they do, right? Anyway, Anne doesn’t know whether to be flattered, or appalled, but mostly, just wants to be left alone where she can take pictures, enjoy the food, the scenery, and occasional good conversation that gets so very deep, she doesn’t know if she’s made the right decisions in her life.

Should it be Alec?

Paris Can Wait is probably the most perfect movie to take your older-relative out to this summer. If they don’t want the slam-bang, loud action of the blockbusters, then give them something small, quiet, sweet and relatively carefree that doesn’t ask for much except just your undivided attention for, oh, I don’t know, say an-hour-and-a-half, if even that. Which means that it’s a fine little movie in its own right, but does that make it really any good?

Not really. But once again, think about your older-relatives. They like movies, too, and why should they be forgotten about? Why? Because they don’t care for Transformers? Or some dude swinging a web? In this general sense, then Paris Can Wait is probably the most perfect movie around: Inoffensive, simple, and easy-to-follow. It’s not setting out to hurt, kill, or maim anyone, but then again, should it?

Better yet, coming from the matriarch of the Coppola family, shouldn’t it do that, and a whole lot more?

Yes, probably, but as is, it’s fine. Writer/director Eleanor Coppola has set out to make a small movie that tries to discuss all aspects about life, love, growing old, having regrets, and yes, appreciating everything around you, but doesn’t really seem to touch on any aspect all that much; it’s as if she’s treading along, hoping to catch something deep, dark, and rather emotional, but doesn’t. And as a result, we’re left with a movie that’s about so many different, small things, but not totally about a whole lot much else.

Or some French creeper?

It’s a shame, too, because at the center of this tale is a really great performance from Diane Lane who, is still just as beautiful as she was in Francis Ford’s the Cotton Club, but also a lot wiser and smarter of a performer. As Anne, Lane, gets the opportunity to show us a sad and, at times, confused older women who doesn’t quite know if she’s happy with the life she’s lived, but also knows that it’s a little too late to change everything up and act as if it never happened. There’s a very surprisingly and emotional scene involving Anne in a church and it’s a great bit of acting from Lane and probably the best part of the movie.

In other words, it comes out of nowhere and actually goes somewhere.

Something that, unfortunately, the rest of the movie doesn’t follow through with. Sure, it’s enjoyable and a feast on the eyes, ears and probably even, the heart, but at the end of the day, it’s just a piece of time passing by. And what would you much rather do with your time left on this planet: Watch a mediocre movie starring Diane Lane? Or, actually live and experience life, go to Paris, drink wine, eat fatty food, have sex, be naked, and yes, just enjoy things around you?

But hey, don’t forget about those older-relatives. They’re what really matters, after all.

Consensus: With a solid lead performance from Diane Lane, Paris Can Wait gets by as an enjoyable diversion to whatever else is out there in the cinemas (hey, remember those?).

5 / 10

Aw, who cares, Diane! Just take those pics, gal!

Photos Courtesy of: Citizen Charlie

The Big Sick (2017)

Disease can kill. But also heal. Right? Not sure.

Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) is a Pakistani comic living in the windy city of Chicago and, along with his fellow comics, is just trying to get by and hopefully, hit the big-time. But his whole life begins to change when he meets an American graduate student named Emily (Zoe Kazan) at one of his stand-up shows and immediately, the two hit it off. The only issue standing in the way of their relationship is that Kumail’s parents want him to get married within his religion. If he doesn’t comply, then guess? He’s practically kicked out of the family and never allowed to contact them ever again. It’s a shame, but it’s something that Kumail, despite his family’s best wishes, has sort of been trying to live against. Which is why Emily doesn’t know how to react to all of this. As a result, they break-up and Kumail is left back to dating women within his religion. But then, suddenly, Emily is in a coma and even worse, her parents (Ray Romano and Holly Hunter), travel all the way up up from North Carolina to see what’s happening with their daughter. It puts Kumail in an awkward situation, but it also makes him want to not just give this family a shot, but possibly even the relationship a shot. When she wakes up, that is.

Is this love? Or just a stand-in?

And here’s the real kicker: It’s all true. Yup. Co-writers Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon are, get this, a real life married-couple who met exactly like this and because of that, we’re allowed to sit back, watch and enjoy their dark, twisted, sometimes funny, but always sweet romance blossom (?). Which is odd because the Big Sick takes on so many different plot-threads and tones, that it’s a true wonder how any of it comes together in a cohesive manner, or at all.

Director Michael Showlater knows what he’s doing with this kind of material, in that he knows how to play-up the laughs, but also the sadness and sometimes weightiness of it, too. It’s a slippery-slope that Showlater balances around and while he doesn’t always make it work perfectly, the balancing act is way more skillful, the more you think about it and realize that he’s taking somebody’s else’s own material/life, and doing it all justice. It’s nothing flashy, it’s nothing spectacular, and it sure as hell isn’t anything surprising – it’s just sweet and rather good-natured.

Basically like nothing else the guy has ever done before, which is all the more surprising.

But still, it deserves to be noted that another famous figure had a hand in this pie, and it was Judd Apatow. And yes, you feel every bit of it. See, the Big Sick is one of those comedies that deals with a blog plot, but also likes to get side-tracked every so often by random subplots, characters, and jokes that, sometimes work, and other times, don’t. In this movie’s case, it’s hard not to imagine this movie slicing out at least ten-to-15-minutes worth of footage, because after the two-hour mark, it can feel a bit straining.

That look when you can’t decide whether to head for the hills or not.

And it’s not as if the material isn’t funny, or interesting enough – it’s just that it’s all so predictable that, after awhile, you just want it to get over with. We know that Emily survives, we know that she wakes up to smell the cauliflower (or in this case, Kumail), and we know that the two eventually fall in love and get married. So, honestly, why is it taking so long to get there? And better yet, where’s the rest of the story in the film? We get all of this talk about arraigned-marriages and the sort of controversy surrounding Kumail’s companionship to a white woman, but when it comes time to tell that part of the story, the movie sort of lingers over it.

It’s as if, oh no, it wasn’t a problem in the first place.

Either way, I’m clearly taking away a lot from the Big Sick and I shouldn’t; it’s a funny, heartfelt, and well-acted movie that doesn’t live up to all of the insane praise it’s been getting from every person and their grand-mother, but it’s still a nice, small, and sweet diversion from all of the loudness of the summer blockbusters. It’s the kind of movie that people can go into, expecting a romantic-comedy, getting one, but also being a little happy that there was a little more going on than just two attractive and talented people finding one another, falling in love, and yeah, getting married. It’s also a movie about culture, about family, and no matter how insane they both may all drive us, they are, after all, what makes us, us.

So it’s best to just appreciate it all for what it is and shut the hell up!

Consensus: Despite being overly long and uneven, the Big Sick still works because it’s funny, heartfelt, and an interesting rom-com that goes beyond the usual conventions of the formula.

7 / 10

See? They’re all fine!

Photos Courtesy of: IndieWire

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Alright. No more reboots!

After being recruited by the one and only Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and kicking all sorts of ass in the so-called “Civil War”, 15-year-old Peter Parker (Tom Holland), when he isn’t in school, cutting class, or crushing hard on his fellow classmate (Laura Harrier), he’s throwing on his red and blue jumpsuit, shootin’ webs, and yes, stoppin’ crime. The only issue is that he was given specific instructions not to act out in this manner, or else, he wouldn’t be allowed in the Avengers, something Peter has wanted since day one. But Peter thinks that he can keep a low-profile, until real bad stuff starts happening, like when a low-level arms-dealer (Michael Keaton), begins selling highly illegal and dangerous weapons to all sorts of criminals on the streets. Sure, he was supposed to stay cool and calm, but after awhile, Peter just can’t stand by and let this happen, which means that it’s time for him to get involved and kick some butt. The only issue is that he’s got so much pressure, both at home and at school, that he doesn’t quite know how to juggle everything with his personal life and still, at the end of the day, save the world.

Just your friendly dorky neighborhood Peter Parker, everyone!

Such is a daily dilemma for all superheros, I presume.

So yeah, first things first: Spider-Man: Homecoming is, get this, not necessarily an origin story. Believe it or not, what we got to see of Spidey in Civil War was basically all we needed to know about him; he’s fun, goofy, quick-witted, and oh yeah, brash. That’s basically. Co-writer/director Jon Watts, as well as the five other writers here (Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, and Erik Sommers) are all smart enough to know that by now, we’ve seen and understood all that there is to know and understood about Peter Parker, his upbringing, where he came from, and all of the backstory that usually plagues another origin-story such as this.

Instead of showing us his first steps, or better yet, the first time he learned how to swing a web, we actually get character-development for Peter, as well as all of those that surround him. Sure, there’s plot about growing up, this baddie lurking somewhere in the distance, and of course, all of the tie-ins to previous Marvel stuff, but really, the movie is all about the characters, how they work with one another, and how exactly they work in this universe. It’s the small things that make these mega-budget, loud, and bombastic summer blockbusters so worth while and it’s why Marvel’s got a solid formula to keep on working with.

Which means that, yes, Homecoming is a swing and a hit. It’s not a home-run, but it’s definitely a solid piece of Marvel entertainment that feels like it’s not just giving us a nice peak inside this already large universe, but also allowing us to get used to these characters for future installments to come. For someone such as myself, who grew up on and adored the Sam Raimi Spider-Man flicks, it’s a little difficult to fully take in this new band of trustees, but after this first showing, they could grow on me. They’re easy-to-like, charming and yes, different enough from the original to where it doesn’t feel like we have to sit down, compare and contrast the two products the whole time.

Wait. Batman? Birdman? Some dude called “Vulture”? What’s going on?!?

Instead, it’s just nice to sit down and appreciate a popcorn superhero flick for being, well, exactly what it sets out to be: Fun.

End of story.

And if we are going to compare, then yes, it’s safe to say that Tom Holland more than fits into the role of Peter Parker because he’s not playing a total and complete dweeb. Sure, Maguire’s take is still heartfelt enough, but really, Holland’s Parker is portrayed more as of a bit of a smart-ass, who also happens to be incredibly smart. Holland’s fun to watch as Parker, but it also helps that he feels and looks like an actual kid; Maguire and Andrew Garfield were both nearly 30-years-old, playing a high-school-aged Parker, seeming like they were just doing dress up for October the 31st. With Holland in the role, he seems like an actual high-school kid, stuck in this sort of situation and because of that, it helps to relate to the kid a bit more.

And really, with our superhero flicks, isn’t that all we want? Someone we can root for, sympathize with, and even identify with? Probably not, but hey, it works for me.

Consensus: Fun, quick, and pretty smart for a superhero flick, Homecoming proves that Spider-Man doesn’t need another damn origin-story, but does need/get/deserve a solid bit of players to look forward to seeing in the near-future.

7.5 / 10

Brought to you by Jansport.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Cartel Land (2015)

Drugs and guns, yes, are bad.

It’s a well-known fact that the Mexican Drug War is a pretty awful one and it only seems to get worse as the years go by, with more laws being passed, and criminal acts being pushed away to the side. But what makes these Wars so awful is the fact that the  cartels that run so rampant in/around Mexico, seem to be getting away with it all. After all, they’ve got so many connections in government that they are, essentially, protected and free to do whatever they want. Cries from fellow citizens who have fallen prey, or victim to the cartel and their vicious ways, continue to go unheard from everyone involved with the Mexican government, as well as to the American government who, oddly enough, always make it a point to set out and take down drugs, whenever the world is watching and the cameras are set on them. It’s almost as if these cartels need to be stopped, but if not by the government, then by who? Enter Dr. José Mireles, a Michoacán-based physician who is a man of the people, for the people, and is essentially deciding that it’s time to arm fellow citizens who want to stop these cartels’ evil reign, thus creating the Autodefensas. This is an account of the non-stop battle and just how far and wide it’s willing to go.

Yep. Sorry, pal. No one really cares about you and your “American” ways.

Above all else, director Matthew Heineman deserves a huge amount of credit for, literally, putting his life on the line here, getting down, dirty, and not shying away from showing the absolute nit, grit and sometimes disturbing parts of this world. Not to mention that, yeah, the guy easily puts himself in some pretty dangerous situations where even he himself could have been killed and left without a film to finish. But because he was so willing to take the risk, he got some truly eye-opening footage that only news-outlets like CNN, or FOX, only dream that they could get and talk about.

And for that alone, Cartel Land is well worth the watch.

It provides a bird’s-eye view of what’s really happening in this awful and downright sadistic drug-war, without ever batting an eye away from the truly disgusting nature of it all. While it’s easy to assume that Heineman himself has an agenda here of showing the good guys taking down the bad guys, one by one, little by little, it soon becomes clear that in this war, nothing is ever black and white, therefore, nor should the documentary. It’s safe to say that Heineman, whether intentionally or not, got a lot of footage that should seem sneaky and awfully scary, but it also seems like these cartels and Autodefensas truly liked him around – it’s like they say, “no exposure, is bad exposure”.

But what works best in Cartel Land‘s favor is that, even though Heineman is able to get a lot of great, absolutely stunning footage, he’s also able to show that there’s more going on beneath the surface of this war. The idea that the Autodefensas who so clearly want to take down the cartel, sooner than later, end up adapting to the same tactics and maneuvers as them, is an obvious road the movie takes, but it also deserves to be seen. It calls into question just what constitutes a certain level of death and violence, but also what really matters: Human lives, or dignity?

See? This is what us Americans really want!

In Cartel Land, there’s no easy answers and it’s why the movie’s hard to shake off.

The only aspect of it that is easy to shake off and, honestly, a downside to an otherwise compelling flick is the B-story Heineman takes it upon himself to constantly fall back on. Every so often, whenever the film is focusing on the Autodefensa and Mireles, it’s focusing on a man named Tim “Nailer” Foley, the leader of Arizona Border Recon, who is fighting the battle on the front-lines of the Border. It should be interesting stuff, but honestly, feels a little misplaced; Heineman seems to be showing this man’s adventure and dangerous journey to help make better sense of what’s going on down deep inside of Mexico, but it doesn’t quite resonate. If anything, it just takes away from any of the intensity made from everything involved with the actual cartels.

Not that this material wouldn’t already be interesting elsewhere, it’s just that everything else Heineman seems to be getting and doing with the cartels, is already plenty enough, so why pack on anymore?

Consensus: With a stunning and shocking amount of footage taken at such close-lengths to everything, Cartel Land is pretty exciting and eye-opening, as well as a thoughtful and interesting look at the current war on drugs and why, unfortunately, it’s basically a lost cause for all involved.

7.5 / 10 

It’s not legal, but hey, I’d take him as our President. Hell, I’d take anyone at this point.

Photos Courtesy of: IndieWire

It’s Only the End of the World (2016)

Families rule. Or so I’m told.

After being away for so very, very long, Louis (Gaspard Ulliel) finally returns home to, hopefully, let his whole family what he’s been up to, what his future plans are, and oh yeah, that he’s probably going to die pretty soon. Of course, though, that one last piece of knowledge seems like it’s going to be a lot harder to get out – not because it’s so tragic and heart-breaking, making it all the more difficult to actually tell loved ones about, but because his whole family is so loud, so tense, and so wild, that he can’t even get a word in edgewise. For instance, there’s his older brother Antoine (Vincent Cassel) and wife Catherine (Marion Cotillard) who, for some reason, can’t think of anything to say to him; Catherine is almost too nice and sincere, whereas Antoine is just constantly angry, over just about everything. Then, there’s Louis younger-sister Suzanne (Léa Seydoux), who he still holds a very close relationship with all of these years later, despite the obvious separation. And then last, but certainly not least, there’s Marianne (Natahlie Baye), who still loves Louis no matter what, but also seems to have her hands a bit full with, well, stuff.

Crazy momma.

It’s odd how It’s Only the End of the World seemed to come and go, without anyone really making a big stink about it. Considering that writer/director Xavier Dolan has become film’s sort of “It Boy” who makes smart, understated, and incredibly pretentious dramedies about difficulty challenging people, it’s weird to see this movie not just get a mixed reception, but barely even hit theaters in the States. It played Cannes, got a weird reception, and that was about it.

But did it really deserve that? Not really.

Granted, It’s Only the End of the World is a bit of a step down from what Dolan has done in the past few years since he showed up, but it’s also another sign that, despite his age, the man’s ambitions are endless. Even with something as small and as freakishly intimate as It’s Only the End of the World, it’s hard to tell just where Dolan’s limits are reached; he seems to go above and beyond the source material’s obvious stagey-ness, and in doing so, shows that he’s adept to other styles, and not just his own. Of course, the movie’s very talky, loud, and almost abrasive, but that’s sort of the point and it fits well with what Dolan does best: Allow for his fragile, complicated characters be themselves.

And in It’s Only the End of the World‘s case, that’s actually fine. There’s no denying the fact that the characters here are all loud-mouths and a little nuts, but there’s also no denying that there’s at least some fun in watching it all play-out. Dolan’s a smart director/writer who knows when it’s best to call down his own little directorial tricks and sort of just let the cast do what they do best, and here, with this small, yet solid ensemble, he does just the ticket. Everyone here is good, with perhaps Cotillard’s more subtle, somewhat subdued performance being the best apart from all of the craziness, getting the chance to play the material up, have some fun, but also uncover a bit of a darker, more emotional side to it all, too.

Still, for some reason, angst-ridden adult.

But the issue with all of this also comes down to character-development, which honestly, can’t be found here.

Sure, this may have a little something to do with the subject-material itself not quite having everything that’s needed for a feature full-length, but it also does come down to Dolan himself, who seems like he cares too much about the performances, and less about what’s going on beyond them. In his past few movies, despite all featuring great performances, Dolan hasn’t forgotten to at least give us some small crumb of character, in whoever he chooses; the performances themselves may be big, loud and bombastic, but at the same time, there’s something going on underneath it all to work.

In It’s Only the End of the World, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of that there and it ends up hurting the movie. See, it’s one thing to have a bunch of loud, angry characters yelling all of the time and constantly fighting, but it’s also another thing to see all of that, and have no idea why any of it is happening. Dolan runs into the issue of just setting his dysfunctional characters down in the same room together, let them spar, and expect us to forget about everything else that matters; no matter how entertaining these verbal-battles get, there still seems to be something missing, like a rhyme or reason why.

And honestly, we never get that.

Just small, subtle hints about why these characters are all so pissed-off and yelling, but never anything else. And that’s an issue. It’s an issue when your whole movie revolves around a bunch of people for an-hour-and-a-half, but it’s also an issue for your movie when you decide to shoot each and everyone of these characters in extreme close-ups. Once again, there’s no denying the artistry of Dolan, but yeah, sometimes one needs to cool themselves down a bit.

Consensus: Smart, engaging performances can’t make up for the fact that It’s Only the End of the World is a little too repetitive and thinly-written to become the masterclass in storytelling that Dolan’s previous films were.

6 / 10

And oh yeah, the sort of mismatched, married-couple. So French!

Photos Courtesy of: IndieWire

Casting JonBenet (2017)

So wait, who did it?

After two decades of all the questioning, all the guessing, all the myths, all the lies, all the rumors, and all the TV specials that your Grandma DVR’d, JonBenét Ramsey’s murder is still such the talk of the town that movies are being made about her life and possible circumstances surrounding her murder. And in this one special made-for-TV reenactment, countless actors/actresses/writers/directors are put on camera to not just talk about her life, but their own as well, and somehow, how the two can connect in ways that they never ever expected them to.

Don’t get too happy, kiddie. JonBenet was the same way.

But sometimes, that’s not actually the case. In fact, what mostly happens in Casting JonBenet is that just a bunch of people stare straight into the camera, say some awfully odd, goofy things, and continue on as if nothing was ever said in the first place.

Hm, Errol Morris much, eh?

Well, yes and no. See, Casting JonBenet wants to so desperately be like one of Morris’ all-time classics, where the outcasts of society have a little something to say to the camera, whether we want to hear it or not, that it’s actually straining itself. It’s not even that the people involved don’t have interesting things to say or ramble on about – it’s just that it goes on too long, without much of anything resembling a focus. It’s as if the camera was just placed and people walked in front of it and embraced as they wanted.

With Morris’ movies, he was never seeming to really go out of his way for this kind of zany stuff – it all just sort of came to him. And you could sort of make the argument that that’s what happened to director Kitty Green here, but a part of me refuses to believe it. Green clearly has an agenda here and while there’s no problem with their being one from a documentary film-maker, there’s still something to be said for when that agenda doesn’t quite work.

In other words, making fun of people to just make fun of people, while in real life may be the opposite, isn’t so fun to watch.

“Don’t worry, honey, no one reads his blog anyway.”

And that’s why Casting JonBenet, as short as it may be, is a little too much to handle. It’s mean-spirited and a little dumb. It’s as if no one involved really cared much about going deeper and further into what these people said, their lives, or hell, even JonBenet’s life itself. Granted, it’s nice that the movie didn’t go out of its way to make this into an investigative piece about what may or may not have happened to JonBenet, but come on, just listening to people talk about it, getting the facts clearly wrong, and never being corrected on it, cannot just get a little irritating, but pretty damn boring.

And when you’re making a movie, whether a documentary, or narrative-piece, it doesn’t matter, sometimes, you just have to go the extra mile to make sure your audience is in it. For me, I wasn’t; I know that people have loved this movie and what it does with the medium of documentary film-making, but it just didn’t connect with me. I appreciate what it’s attempting to do, its obvious influences, and some of the people here, but yeah, just not totally for me.

Probably why I waited a whole two months to actually get around to reviewing this. Oh well. Sorry, folks.

Consensus: Casting JonBenet tries a little too hard to be like Errol Morris, but in doing so, also forgets what makes his flicks so worthwhile in the first place: The reality of a heart and humanity.

4 / 10

Pay attention, ladies! Ugh! What divas!

Photos Courtesy of: Rolling StoneThe VergeRefinery29

Get Me Roger Stone (2017)

I don’t want me Roger Stone, but I want me a Roger Stone-type, if there’s such a distinction.

You may have heard the name before, but you sure as hell don’t know the face, or the actual accomplishments. To put it as simple as this: Roger Stone is the main reason why there’s been so many Republicans in office these past many decades. If it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t have had Nixon, Reagen, Bush, and sure as hell not Trump, in office. But how? Better yet, why? Well, those are two very hard questions to answer, but through as much detail and insider-information as he can possibly give us, Roger Stone will fill us in on a few of his little secrets, and why the hell he’s stuck around so many of these conservatives in the first place.

Monopoly guy?

Or better yet, why he’s still sticking around Trump, despite the guy apparently not having anymore use for him.

Get Me Roger Stone comes ridiculously, almost dangerously close to seeming like a puff-piece for someone who, no doubt about it, is great at their job, but is also a bit of a dick. But how much of a dick is he, really? Or hell, the better question would be just how much of him is actually a dick, and how much of it is a put-on for the rest of the world of media? In all honesty, Get Me Roger Stone never comes up with the answer to that burning question, but it still remains an entertaining portrait of a man you didn’t think you wanted to know anything about in the first place.

Like at all.

Because see, what Get Me Roger Stone does, and does well, is that despite giving us a solid portrait of this challenging, arrogant man, it also makes us realize the obvious truth that, yeah, those people on the other side of the political-spectrum, despite believing in asinine, outdated and prejudicial ideas about society, are still human beings. Get Me Roger Stone is a smart movie in that it shows why Roger Stone, as a voice for all the Republicans and Conservatives out there in the world, still deserves to be hear and, at the very least, understood; we don’t have to agree with the guy, but like you or I, he’s got thoughts and opinions and yeah, they ought to be heard.

Oh, now Tricky Dick? Get me the actual Roger Stone!

Then again, the movie is smart enough in that it doesn’t make any apologies for the guys actions, either. More often than not, Stone will reveal something almost shocking to the camera about his dirty tricks, and sure, while it may seem like he’s a bad person for doing the sort of stuff he essentially brags about, the movie also makes us realize that, hey, it’s his job to be this dirty. And better yet, he’s also doing his job; almost every politician that he’s helped back up has become President, when it seemed like they didn’t have a prayer of ever getting into office.

Sure, he’s a dick. No doubt about it. But man, he sure knows politics.

And that’s all Get Me Roger Stone comes down to. By the end it starts to get serious and discuss Trump, but really, it’s a light, entertaining and sometimes hilarious look at the backstabbing, the gossip, and playtime that is politics. It’s a movie that’s as in love with the idea of politics, as much as it is with Roger Stone, or people just like him, but it also can’t forget that there is something fascinating about this guy, the way he carries himself, and just why he’s been so under-the-radar. After all, with a winning-record like his, maybe he should have been President, rather than Code Orange?

Actually, then again, nope. I’m fine. Let’s just get someone else and quick.

Consensus: Maybe not the deepest, most thought-provoking documentary about the blue politicians out there in the world, Get Me Roger Stone is still a fun, entertaining and insightful look at this one man, his career, as well as the rough, tough, but impressive job he has to do in order to win.

7 / 10

Oh, and second though, never mind. This one’s already tainted. Get me another one.

Photos Courtesy of: ViceNational ReviewRoger Ebert

Okja (2017)

But bacon is so good! Ugh!

With the threat of world hunger looming out there far in the distance, the family-owned, multinational conglomerate Mirando Corporation decides that the best cause of action is to create a series of super pigs who, over the next ten or so years, will continue to grow, get bigger, fatter and more juicier, so that when the time is right to munch down on them, they’ll be as tasty, as succulent, and as beneficial as ever. But in order for these pigs to grow as big as they need to, they need to be fed and kept-up well, which brings us to young Mija (Ahn Seo-hyun), who has been caretaker and constant companion to Okja at her home in the mountains of South Korea. But what Mija doesn’t know is that Okja, as big and as smart as he is, is one of the best super pigs around, meaning that it’s going to be the prime candidate for the killing and eating of. It’s something that Mija can’t understand or fathom, so that when the time comes to Okja getting taken away from her, she follows wherever the pig goes. But obviously, Mija isn’t the only one who has Okja’s best interest at-heart and sooner than later, everyone’s fighting over Okja and trying to figure out what’s right, what’s wrong, and what’s actually for dinner.

Vanna White?

Movies like Okja make me happy that Netflix is around and doing what it’s doing. Sure, say what you want about how it’s killing movie-theaters and changing up the whole business-aspect of the film-industry, but still, you have to look at it like this: Okja is such an odd, crazy, and wild movie, that only a streaming-service could help get it made and released to a huge audience. Obviously, what happened to Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer a few years ago had something to do with it, but still, it deserves to be said that Okja is as crazy, as original, and as fun of a movie as you’ll get the chance to see on the big screen, anywhere, this summer.

Of course you see this on the big screen which, yes, if you can, you probably should. It’s one of those rare movies that will probably on be seen on small-screens like laptops, iPads and, gasp, iPhones, but more than definitely deserves to be seen on the biggest, loudest, and most epic screen possible. If it isn’t, though, don’t worry – Okja is still a fun movie, no matter how, or where you see it. In a way, it’s the kind of movie that makes me happy not just for Netflix, but for visionaries like Bong Joon-ho and the fact that, despite their movies probably not making Transformers money, still get enough of a chance to make whatever they want and show it to the rest of the world.

Sure, that’s what every film-maker does, but for Bong Joon-ho, I don’t know, it’s something more special.

See, for Joon-ho, it’s all about the constant juggling act of tones and genres, and most of the time, he succeeds at pulling off a solid, satisfying transition. Okja is an odd mix between a comedy, a drama, a satire, an action flick, a monster movie, and yeah, a political-piece, but it does come together so well that it barely ever seems like it’s switing itself up – the bits and pieces of comedy/satire don’t always work and more than often seem way too over-the-top (more on that later) – but yeah, for the most part, Joon-ho knows what he’s doing and what he’s playing around with, and it’s just so much fun to watch. It’s almost as if you can forget about the obvious humanitarian message at the center of it all that’s basically saying, yeah, meat is murder.

End of story. Thanks, Morrissey.

And yeah, it’s preachy, sure, but it’s also handled in such a smart way that it doesn’t really attack those who decide to eat meat, either. Mostly, those who profit off of the meat-market and continue to do so, for all lack of general well-being and decency, are shown in the negative spotlight and made to apologize for themselves, even if they actually don’t. Sure, Joon-ho may not even be making a point and instead, just wanted to make a silly, fun, and rather sweet movie about a girl and her giant pig, but yeah, sometimes the themes are too obvious.

But in this case, they’re fine. They don’t take away from the fun, the excitment, and the enjoyment of the movie. If anything, it strengthens it by making it seem like more than just your typical monster movie; it has a heart, it has a soul, and yes, it has a little something to say. It’s the kind of monster movie that Joon-ho’s the Host seemed to want to be, but backed away from, slowly but surely.

Steve Irwin?

This time around, though, Joon-ho nails it and it’s just so much fun to watch.

Well, everything except for the satire. See, Okja clearly takes on a cast of colorful and nutty characters that, on paper, sound like a lot of fun, but when put together, in a movie which, despite having a lighter-tone than expected, is still serious enough to not be taken as a joke. And that’s a bit of a problem when you have the likes of Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal showing up and acting as if they’re deleted-scenes from the latest season of Twin Peaks; Gyllenhaal is especially grating in a terribly annoying performance that doesn’t know if it wants to be sad, mean, funny, or just out-of-this-world. Either way, it’s hard to watch and just downright disappointing coming from an actor who seemed like he could do it all.

Then again, though, everyone else here who is downplaying, still does a fine enough job in keeping everything together. Steven Yeun, Paul Dano, Lily Collins, Devon Bostick, and Daniel Henshall all play animal rights activists here who may or may not be just as sinister and as harsh as the corporations they’re out against, but all play it small enough to where it’s interesting and they don’t take over every scene. Same goes for the young, brash and exciting Ahn Seo-hyun, who has a great presence for someone so young, and in something so big and ambitious. It would have been very easy for her to get lost in all of the crazy supporting characters and CGI, but nope, Seo-hyun holds it altogether and ends up being this movie’s glue it so desperately needed.

But once again, thank you Netflix. More of these, please.

Consensus: While the constantly switching in-and-out of tones doesn’t always work, Okja is still a smart, exciting and entertaining piece of popcorn fun that has more on its mind than meets the eye.

8 / 10

Just the sweet love between a girl and her huge pig? Aw.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire