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Beauty and the Beast | Review

For the second week in a row, it has been my job to review a remake/reboot of a movie that I have loved for decades. This time it’s one of the greatest animated features of all time, Beauty and the Beast.

For those of you who don’t know, Beauty and the Beast is a tale as old as time classic story about a girl, who doesn’t fit in, falling in love with a man that was turned into a monster, essentially for being a jerk. I’m as jaded and cynical as they come, but while it has become trendy to pick things apart and say that Belle has Stockholm Syndrome, I couldn’t care less about any of that. If that’s your gimmick, I’m looking at you Daniel O’Brian of Cracked (don’t take that the wrong way, I’m a huge fan of OPCD and After Hours), or you’re trying to show people a new and completely different way to see something, that’s one thing, but the rest of you just need to stop. Shit, where was I? That’s right, this is the latest film that Disney is adapting from animated classic to live-action blockbuster. These are the kinds of movies that both excite and terrify me because I want to enjoy them but am afraid they’ll ruin something I love, and after my disappointment in The Jungle Book remake, I was terrified for Beauty and the Beast more so than I was excited. So how does it stack up?

The Good News:

I wasn’t completely let down. I know that doesn’t sound very positive but I was expecting to leave the theater pissed off about another film I love being ruined by an unnecessary remake. Most of the cast did a stellar job. Emma Watson (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) is wonderful, Kevin Klein (A Fish Called Wanda) provides depth to a character that previously had none, and while I’d have preferred someone the size of Dwayne Johnson to play Gaston, Luke Evans (Dracula Untold) pulls off the unparalleled narcissism flawlessly. Adding almost an hour of runtime, the new material, unneeded as I felt it was, fit well into the overall story. And, while I’m still waiting for the day that CGI and real people/animals/objects are indistinguishable, this is pretty damn close.

The Bad News:

It’s not the original. I realize that’s obvious but it was pretty much my only problem with the film. As wonderful and talented as they are, Emma Thompson is no Angela Lansbury, and Ewan McGregor can’t hold a candle to Jerry Orbach’s Lumiere (yes, I really made that pun). The slight changes made to the music only bothered me because I know the originals by heart and it ruined my attempt to mouth along with them in the theater. Other than that, I was hoping for more out of Josh Gad (Frozen), we didn’t need the enchantress’s return, and besides for why the villagers have no idea there’s a castle with a monster in it half a day’s ride away, none of the time frame issues are resolved (but at least the enchantress doesn’t curse a 10-year-old, although the fate of the people turned into objects seems much crueler).

7
Score
Beauty and the Beast | Review
Bottom Line:
Sure to hook those not familiar with the original without ruining it for those who are. Definitely worth seeing.
Yes!
Wonderful Cast
High Nostalgia Factor
No!
Just Not As Good As The Original
Few Too Many Unnecessary Changes

Logan | Review

Logan Review | The Brazen Bull

Wolverine has always been my favorite of the X-Men. I know, me and everyone else, right? He’s got a skeleton covered in adamantium (super metal for you non-fans out there…..I’m sure there’s one or two of you), claws that come out of his fists, heightened animal senses, super strength and agility, and a regenerative healing ability that makes him damn near invincible. What’s not to like? Sure, all of that is great, but that’s not why he’s my favorite. I love Wolverine for the same reason I love Raphael of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, personality.

He’s a loner, he’s always angry, he’s full of regret from the things he’s done, and he pushes the people who care about him away because he thinks it’s better for them. I guess it’s not so much Wolverine I like, but Logan, the man behind the claws. From that perspective, the previous eight appearances Hugh Jackman has made as Logan have been less than impressive (not that it had anything to do with Jackman’s performance), but finally, Marvel has given Logan, and us the fans, the movie we all deserve.

In the not too distant future, mutants have almost completely been eliminated and there hasn’t been a mutant birth in years. Logan and Charles Xavier, Sir Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: Enterprise), are in hiding, south of the Mexican border. Xavier has a degenerative brain disease and Logan is clearly suffering from some sort of unknown illness which is affecting his abilities as well as overall health. A nurse, who formally worked for a company that is trying to create mutant soldiers, tries to hire Logan to transport her and Laura, a young mutant girl, to a safe haven in Canada. Logan must overcome a small army, a genetically designed mutant, illness, and his own personality flaws to keep the young girl safe.

The Good News:

As stated earlier, this is the Wolverine movie that both Logan and his fans deserve. In the first five minutes, Logan contains more blood and cursing than all of the previous X-Men combined. This perfectly sets the tone for the entire movie. Marvel delivers a dark and gritty superhero film the way it’s supposed to be made. Take note DC, a movie doesn’t have to be shot completely in grays and muted tones, at night, or in bad weather to get that kind of feel. Logan uses the talent of it’s cast to create depth, and a well-written story to give the film a dark feel. Jackman and Stewart deliver their best performances in what both have said will be the last time in their respective roles (I really hope they change their minds).

The Bad News:

As far as anything negative I have to say, even I would consider it nitpicking. Did Weapon 24 have to look like a Wolverine clone? No, and I didn’t like it. Could the villains be more fleshed out? Yes, but that’s not what the story is about. Did I want to know more about what was wrong with Xavier and Logan? Absolutely, but it’s not what’s important. The worst part of the movie was that I didn’t get a ticket in advance and had to sit in the far back corner.

 

 

The Great Wall | Review

Matt Damon in The Great Wall

Going into The Great Wall, I had high, albeit, realistic expectations about what I was going to experience. I like far-eastern culture. I like mythology. I like gigantic reptilian monsters. Yimou Zhang (House of Flying Daggers, Hero) is a fantastic Director. At the same time, a movie about a war against said monsters is rarely Oscar worthy, but that’s ok. I don’t need to be taken on an emotional journey of self-discovery every time I go to the theater, but I do want to be entertained.

Matt Damon (The Martian) stars in a story (I almost put story in sarcastic quotation marks) about the only defense humanity has against a nearly unstoppable horde of monsters. Mercenaries, William and Tovar, Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones), are searching China for black powder when they are attacked by some kind of creature, after which they stumble upon The Great Wall of China, which is manned by an elite and color coded force known as The Nameless Order. To me, that IS a name, but I digress. From then on it’s one siege scene after another with short breaks to give the audience “story” (sorry, I couldn’t stop myself this time).

The Good news.

The things The Great Wall does well, it does very well. It truly is a fantastical film. The visuals are stunning, the weapons and method of fighting are refreshingly creative and exciting to watch, and the costume design is brilliant. Up until this very moment, I don’t think I’ve ever commented on costume design before, but the armors are magnificent in both color and construction. If I was rich they’d be the type of movie prop I’d want to purchase to decorate my home. It’s also no surprise that Yimou Zhang does a wonderful job directing such creative battle scenes.

Now for the bad news.

This film contains neither a story nor developed characters. In 104 minutes, all we’re given as far as a story is concerned, is the monsters either arrived on or were released from a mountain by a meteor, as punishment for man’s greed, and if they breach the wall and get to the capital, the entire world is doomed. Other than that, it feels like nothing but one long battle. This isn’t helped by the fact that every main character can be described in a single sentence. William is a mercenary with a hard past but is truly a hero inside. Tovar is the friend who urges the protagonist to stick to the plan and not get wrapped up in heroics. Ballard, Willem Defoe (The Boondock Saints), is the familiar face in a foreign land who is obviously untrustworthy. Peng Yong is a fool and a coward but is braver at heart than anyone realizes. Commander Lin, Tian Jing (Police Story: Lockdown), is a female soldier raised as a warrior who values honor and trust above all else. And that’s it. No important backstories, no overcoming inner demons or personality flaws, just one-dimensional characters going through the motions.

I would suggest Legendary allow Yimou Zhang to write and produce in addition to direct if they want the most out of a cast with this much talent.

 

Justice League (2017) Official Trailer

The official Justice League (2017) trailer is here!

Today, March 25th, Warner Bros. Pictures released the official trailer for the upcoming Justice League film, and boy does it look awesome. This two and a half minute trailer is packed with action and has me stoked for the film. And from just this brief look, I am already looking forward to the Batman/Aquaman dynamic.

Justice League hits theaters November 2017.

What do you think about the Justice League trailer?

John Wick: Chapter 2 | Review

At the risk of sounding like a commercial, I’ll say that John Wick: Chapter 2 is a non-stop thrill ride, and I’m glad this is in print, because it sounds utterly ridiculous when I say it out-loud. Ridiculous or not, it’s true. Before the opening credits are displayed, viewers are greeted with action as the start of the film contains two high speed chases, one of which results in a fair bit of damage and the title character kicking the ever-loving shit out of quite a few nameless goons. Yes, all of this happens before we even see the film’s title on the screen, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Chapter 2 starts with John Wick, Keanu Reeves (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure), tying up loose ends (that I was completely unaware of), that the first movie left unfinished. After getting his car back and avenging his dog, John reburies all of his assassin gear in the basement. Just as he finishes this, he gets a visit from Santino D’Antonio, a former associate, who’s come to collect on a blood debt John owes him. When he refuses, Santino blows up John’s house. Knowing he has no choice John agrees to kill Santino’s sister, Gianna, so that he can take her place at the high table. A task that ends up being extremely easy, but that’s when things get ugly for our favorite assassin. Cassian, Common (Smokin’ Aces), Gianna’s right hand, vows revenge and Santino puts out a seven-million-dollar contract on John. This, of course, inspires the majority of the assassin world to try and kill him. Once the ball is rolling, we get to watch over an hour of John Wick straight up murdering anyone that gets in his way, which is really all we want from this film anyway.

I know that John Wick: Chapter 2 won’t be making any buzz come next award season, but who cares. Not every film that makes it to theaters has to be a Citizen Kane or a Gone with the Wind. This sequel not only delivers everything that it promises, but it also provides everything that fans wanted more of from the first film. Jonathan Eusebio’s fight choreography is intense and beautifully smooth, the story isn’t overly complicated or confusing, and the ending is a perfect set up for a Chapter 3. If you like mindless violence, revenge stories, and tons of action, then this movie is just what you’re looking for.

Bonus: Keanu Reeves and Common have a fight scene that rivals the unbelievably long and absurd fight between Rowdy Roddy Piper and Keith David in They Live (1988). There’s no background music, it’s evenly matched, and it feels like it is never going to end. It’s pretty awesome.

La La Land (2016) Movie Review

Dazzling, and at times, utterly breathtaking, ‘La La Land’ methodically tugs at the heart-stings, applying just enough pressure, at the just the right moments, with unrivaled passion and spirit when necessary. Truly magnificent, La La Land is a modern, must-see musical. Brimming with life, and vibrance, La La Land inspires equally as much as it exhilarates. This, ladies and gentleman, is not a film that you watch, it’s one that you experience – it’s one that you feel and never forget.

The plot is delightfully simple: Sebastian, a jazz pianist, falls in love with Mia, an aspiring actress.

Throughout the film, Mia and Sebastian, the ever-dreaming, star-crossed lovers, battle with Fate for control of their serendipitously intertwined destinies. Watching their emotional story unfold on the big screen is a wonderful experience. Ah, young love…

Ryan Gosling (The Notebook) does a great job capturing the essence of what makes Sebastian not only great, but also so easy to relate to. Passionate and truly talented, Sebastian is a man who’s willing to give everything up for the woman that he loves.

Emma Stone’s (Zombieland) performance, portraying the beautifully complex Mia, is spot-on, she is witty throughout and inspires as many smiles as she does tears. The on-screen chemistry between Stone and Gosling is intense and sincere. Sure, the writing was great, but seeing Stone and Gosling together, pouring their hearts out, was spectacular.

Director and writer Damien Chazelle, the brilliant mind behind ‘Whiplash’ (2014), has created a visual and emotional spectacle with ‘La La Land.’ Cinematographer Linus Sandgren’s (American Hustle) warm and luscious style was evident throughout the film and paired perfectly with Justin Hurwitz’ sure-to-be-award-winning soundtrack. Sangren and Hurwitz and Chazelle artfully attack the entire emotional spectrum, and in doing so, end up crafting a truly unique cinematic experience.

Several times throughout the film I found myself slack-jawed and wide-eyed as I watched in utter amazement. And while I wasn’t brought to tears, and neither was my wonderful fiancee for that matter, I can assure you that there were some in the crowd who couldn’t help but sob through the credits.

The team behind this film deserves some serious credit and recognition for the apparent effort put forth. There is no doubt in my mind that La La Land is going to fair well this awards season. Go see it. If you don’t, you’re really missing out on something great.

 Score: 9 out of 10

The LEGO Batman Movie | Review

When Batman, Will Arnett (Arrested Development), hurts The Joker’s, Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover), feelings, Joker allows himself to be sent to space jail in order to break out the most evil villains in history in order to prove to Batman that they have a strong and meaningful relationship built on mutual hate. Go ahead and read that again if you have to because that’s the plot of the entire movie. The sub-plot is Batman’s journey to discover the importance of family, friendship, and letting people in, even if you’re afraid of losing them.

When it comes to movies like this, I feel the need to review it twice. Once as a children’s movie and once as just a movie. With that in mind, here’s what you need to know if you’re bringing your kids to see The LEGO Batman Movie, as well as what you need to know if you want check it out for yourself.

For Children:

Obviously targeted at children, LEGO Batman is everything you’d expect it to be. The music is fun and upbeat, the visuals are flashy and colorful, and the action is over-the-top and exciting while at the same time removed of the fear that most movies want to instill in the viewer. Villains such as Voldemort from the Harry Potter series, and Sauron from The Lord of the Rings are toned down to cartoonishly dopey, and Batman’s brooding is replaced with narcissistic buffoonery, making the characters easily digestible by children of many ages. The message comes across as clear and important without taking itself too seriously. If you’re planning on making this your choice for a family movie night, then you won’t be disappointed by how excited your children will surely be on the way out of the theater as they discuss everything that they just watched.

For Adults:

I love children’s movies as much as the next guy (check out my review of Moana if you want evidence), but this one fell flat for me. After the level of enjoyment I experienced watching The LEGO Movie, I had high hopes for LEGO Batman. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to my expectations. All of my favorite moments came from taking shots at, or making reference to, previous Batman productions. From pointing out Joker’s past failures in Batman (1989) and The Dark Knight (2008) to poking fun at the campy-ness of the 1966 TV show, the best jokes come from nostalgia. Beyond that, it lacked the heart that made The LEGO Movie so good, and not a single piece of music comes close to being as catchy as “Everything is Awesome.” If you’re planning to go see this by yourself, I’d recommend skipping this one.

 

Wonder Woman Review

Marvel, Marvel, Marvel. DC has to be feeling like Jan Brady as of late. The MCU is a money making juggernaut and with the added success of films like Logan and Deadpool, Marvel Comics is currently ruling the box office. DC, on the other hand, has hit a bit of a rough patch. Critics and fans alike have been less than thrilled with the direction DC has taken in its attempt to create its own cinematic universe. With the release of Justice League around the corner, DC is running out of time before needing a massive reboot. Wonder Woman is DC’s last chance to build excitement for its big ensemble film. Well DC, let’s see what you’ve got.

The Story:

Wonder Woman a.k.a. Diana, Gal Gadot (I couldn’t find a film I actually wanted to link her to), saves pilot/spy Steve Trevor, Chris Pine (Star Trek), and learns of the “war to end all wars” going on in the world outside the protected and hidden island of Themyscira. Believing Ares is responsible, and that it’s the duty of the Amazonians to stop him, she embarks on a quest to kill the God of War and prevent the killing of thousands more. Can Diana break Ares’ influence on mankind or will she learn it’s the darkness in our nature that drives us to such atrocities?

The Good:

It finally feels like DC got one right. I’m not going to say I didn’t enjoy Suicide Squad, because I did, but I certainly wouldn’t call it good, and I’ll never get the time back that I wasted watching Batman v Superman. Wonder Woman, however, was both enjoyable and pretty good. Gal Gadot has given the best performance of anybody involved in DC’s new universe, not that she really had any competition. Director Patty Jenkins does a wonderful job balancing out DC’s dark and gritty feel with Diana’s almost naïve level of optimism and sense of right and wrong. If you’re the type of fan that will be disappointed that there’s no “S&M kinkiness” or that her armor is red, gold, and blue instead of red, white and blue, as David Edelstein of Vulture seems to think some of you might be, then stay home. There’s more than enough skin shown to cause drooling over Gadot’s beauty, and not everything has to be drenched in “America,” and honesty, a golden color make way more sense than white for armor inspired by the ancient Greeks.

The Bad:

As much as I enjoyed the action sequences (seriously, watching Wonder Woman kick tons of ass is extremely satisfying), they could have eased up a bit on the computer enhanced fighting skills Diana shows off. When deflecting machine-gun fire and mortar attacks with a shield is more believable than a leg sweep, you know you have a problem. When it comes to the story, if you saw Captain America then you saw Wonder Woman. Yes, I realize there are tons of differences, but the quest of a morally righteous superhero accompanied a group of soldiers to stop the Germans from developing/using a super-weapon to win the war is the core of both movies. That being said, I for one, would prefer to watch Wonder Woman. Finally, Diana’s full power being released by her love for Steve kind of fucks up the whole empowered-woman-vibe the rest of the film does a great job of building…..but maybe that’s just me.

8
Score
Wonder Woman
The Bottom Line
Easily DC's best film in their cinematic universe.
Yes!
Gal Gadot is great as Wonder Woman
Chris Pine and David Thewlis aren't too shabby either
No...
Some of the computer effects are a bit distracting.

February Netflix Suggestions

It’s February and romance is in the air. Whether you need suggestions for a date night or just want to “Netflix and Chill,” I’m here to help. Before we continue, I just want to warn you: you should, without a doubt, no questions asked, 100%, do something special for your better half on the 14th, but the rest of the month is fine for calling a night on the couch “a date.”  I repeat make V-Day magical or your nights on the couch will be spent alone. Without further adieu…

Three Holidays at Once:

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) Sure neither Halloween nor Christmas are anywhere in sight, but why should that matter? This stop-motion masterpiece has everything you want for a Valentine’s Day date night movie, including a budding romance involving the undead. Twilight is also being added if that’s more your thing, but the type of woman I’m into would take the Pumpkin King over a sparkly vampire any day of the week.  (February 1st)

Can I Touch You There:

Michael Bolton’s Big, Sexy Valentine’s Day Special (2017) This variety special promises to get you in the mood for romance. Judging by the line-up I think it’s more likely to put you in the mood for laughs. Add in Bolton’s smooth vocals and it looks like the perfect thing to watch on the night of the 14th. (February 7th)

American Ninja Wait a Minute:

Ultimate Beastmaster (2017) A competition show based around a grueling obstacle course. You’ll love some contestants. You’ll hate others. You’ll tell yourself that you could do this if you practiced a couple times. Yea, we’ve seen this before, but hey, at least its not another singing competition. (February 24th)

Binge Alert:

DreamWorks Dragons: Race to the Edge: Season 4 (2017) Remember how perfect that one Valentine’s Day was 9 years ago? How could you forget? You have a walking, talking souvenir of that night. And that souvenir wants you to watch TV with them. This one is for them. With four seasons, you’ll have plenty to watch with the little ones. Just don’t daydream too much about how you just want one night alone with your love because your kids are bound to get upset if they notice you drifting off. (February 17th)

There’s plenty more being added to enjoy this month but these are a great place to start. What additions are you most looking forward to?

Underworld Blood Wars

Underworld: Blood Wars is a disappointing addition to a decaying franchise.

Despite I myself being unable to grapple with the concept that this could possibly be a viewers first Underworld film (for the sole fact that you wouldn’t be watching it unless you were charmed by a leather-clad Kate Beckinsale back in 2003), the film’s team figured it would be a good idea to bring new viewers up to speed by recapping the highlights of previous Underworld films. For fans, you know, the only people choosing to watch Underworld: Blood Wars in the first place, this highlight reel is a complete waste of time. And frankly, the inclusion of said highlight reel only goes to point out the fact that Underworld has gotten far too ‘complex’ to be enjoyed by newcomers. Sure, there’s gratuitous amounts of violence and ‘epic’ Vampire v. Lycan battles, but at this point, we’ve been watching all of that for like thirteen years now, and unfortunately, it’s gotten old. And look, I enjoy watching Kate Beckinsale kick Lycan ass as much as the next guy, but we’ve been seeing the same vampires kick the same Lycan asses (and vice-versa) for a while now…

Kate Beckinsale (Love & Friendship) reprises her role as Selene, Vampire Death Dealer, and performs equally as well as she has in the past. Unfortunately, there isn’t much to say in terms of what she brought to the table this time around, she is the same as she ever was.

Yet again, Selene is caught in the middle of the centuries old Vampire/Lycan war and finds herself, again, being hunted by both factions. Why are they hunting her? Her ‘purebred hybrid’ daughter’s blood is the key to winning the war, and yes, before you ask, she is a purebred hybrid…whatever that means. The only problem here is, Selene has no idea where her daughter is, and apparently, neither of the clans know this and inadvertently waste a great deal of time hunting Selene. Bummer. Theo James (Divergent) plays Selene’s Vampire ally, David, and discovers that his blood is worth almost as much as Selene’s daughter’s blood is. Unfortunately, there isn’t nearly enough of that dark-vampire-chemistry between them to make their shared on-screen time worth watching. The same goes for Charles Dance (The Imitation Game), who plays David’s father, Thomas. Simply put, Dance’s talent is wasted here. Lara Pulver (Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow) does a solid job portraying the backstabbing Semira, but her performance gets lost in a rather messy plot.

The messy plot that I am referring to really isn’t even worth trying to summarize. The plot of Underworld: Blood Wars feels as though it is the combination of several Underworld films that could have been made, but weren’t. Again, it was messy and felt incomplete. There were some interesting aspects of the story, but none of them were given enough time to develop. Here, we have ten pounds of shit in a five pound bag. Underworld: Blood Wars is just another film that was thrown together ‘for’ fans of the franchise…which really means, for money.

Prior to actually watching the film, I was glad to know that a female, Anna Foerster, would be directing a film like this, in a genre(s) that is very male dominated. Unfortunately, the Action/Horror flick that she directed, isn’t worth watching…

Score: 4 out of 10

General-DC Comics

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