Double Dip Film Reviews: Pet Semetary and Shazam!

Yep, been a little while.  But don’t blame me, blame the slop we’ve been forced to sit through since the new year:  

I watched “Aquaman”, meh.  I did see, “Fighting With My Family.”  Enjoyed it and a nice chunk was the few scenes the Rock was in.  Vince Vaughn also solid in this.  Those are words not many people have written in over 10 years.  Also saw “Captain Marvel.”  Look, it wasn’t as bad as some people made it out to be but it certainly wasn’t good.  And the only thing missing was Samuel L Jackson wearing a postman’s uniform in that film.  Cause he mailed that shit in, big time.  The jokes failed, big time.  But they had the best Stan Lee cameo, big time.  

petsemtary

Honestly is the best policy, except when it comes to dealing with your wife.  I had no desire to see the new Pet Semetary film.  Never read the book, never saw the original film.  But the reviews were coming in much more positively than I expected.  I also expect the Stephen King remakes will be held to a higher caliber as It was fantastic.  So here we go:

Louis Creed (Jason Clarke of the unfortunate Terminator: Genisys) is moving his family up to the country.  Wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz) and kids Ellie and Gage (Jete Laurence and Hugo Lavoie) along with their cat, Church which is short for Churchill.  No reason given for naming the cat after a Gary Oldman character.  The house the family move into happens to be adjacent to a creepy pet cemetery.  Next door lives Jud (John Lithgow from the evergreen Harry and the Hendersons) who just may know what exactly is going on with said cemetery.  

Cue things going bump in the night, premonitions, the usual suspects of horror films.  Poor Church decides to go one on with a tractor trailer and ends up like a Mortal Kombat Fatality victim.  Neighbor Jud (who would ever saddle their kid with that name) suggests that burying the cat beyond the pet cemetery may benefit the Creed family.  Well guess what?  That’s an Indian burial ground past the cemetery and good ol’ Church just happens to cash in on 1 of the 9 lives.  Although he looks like he just spent all night raging at a fraternity party and ripping off 14 straight wins in beer pong.  Oh wait, that was me, 20 years ago.  

I’ll bet you, gentle reader, that you think that even though that Church may not be the same lovable feline he was before the resurrection.  And you’d be right.  He hisses and scratches more people than a 14 year old girl in a lunchroom brawl.  And then this of course, sends everyone into a panic and more bad things start to happen.  Apparently, one of the major events was changed from the book to this film and yes, King gave his blessing for the change.  And now we’ve crossed into spoiler territory so I shall now circle the wagons.

This film is enjoyable, it delivered what it promised.  Gave me a few jumps, not any cheap scares.  Foresaw most of the ending but the very end, didn’t see that angle.  I did wish they better explained the scene with the procession of children wearing pet masks and why they were doing it.  Otherwise, it’s a fine and fun watch.  Must you see it in a theater?  Not a must.  Will you feel disappointed after dropping $15 on it?  I don’t think so.  

6.5 out of 10

 

shazam

DC Films is like the Sword in the Stone.  Many people tried pulling out the sword without success as DC has pumped out poor film after mediocre/decent film.  Man of Steel, Justice League, Suicide Squad, Batman v Superman…all awful.  Wonder Woman was fine, Aquaman was meh.  And now we have, Shazam.  The guy anyone barely remembers from the Justice League cartoon but had one hell of an entrance.  Now DC drops this into our collective laps, hoping this bird flies after being thrown out of the nest instead of crashing to earth. Avengers: Endgame is out in 3 weeks, this is their only chance to get a hold of something until the Joker comes out in fall.  How does it fare?  Let’s go to the videotape!  

Shazam is the story of Billy Batson, a 14 year old foster kid constantly looking for his mother whom he lost at a winter fair when he was 3.  Billy finds himself escaping bullies on a subway in Philadelphia (No, his superpowers aren’t avoiding white trash or mouth breathing Eagles fans) when he’s suddenly transported to a wizard, also a Shazam, seeking a replacement for his powers.  By yelling, “Shazam!”, Billy turns into the bigger and even older superhero.  The lighthearted approach of discovering Shazam’s superpowers as well as coming of life experiences with his fellow foster brother Freddy Freeman (Jack Glazer) pays off in spades.  The trial and error method while the boys upload their videos to youtube is quite humorous.  It’s kind of Deadpool-ish without the R rated dick jokes.  Not that I’m opposed to them by any stretch though.  What’s the second most important aspect of a superhero film?  Tits.  Just kidding.  Well, they never have those in films unless it’s Barb Wire which was nothing short of a method of torture outlawed by the Geneva Convention.  The villain, you chowderheads!  Mark Strong plays Thaddeus Silvana, one who was also was interviewed by the previous Shazam wizard but had failed the test.  He wants that power and goddamnit, he’s not stopping at nothing to get it.  Silvana enlists the help of the 7 Deadly Sins who are lizard-like that are named after the, ding, 7 deadly sins.  

Well, let’s give credit where credit is due.  This film breaks the streak of shitty/mediocre DC films not named Batman.  Bale, not Affleck.  C’mon, we’re civilized here.  This film is rock solid except for the final battle does lag a bit.  I also observed Batson’s foster family noticeably checks the multicultural boxes: Asian boy, Asian girl, black girl, Hispanic boy, Samoan dad, Hispanic mom, white girl, white guy.  This film hits all marks and finally correctly copies from the Marvel playbook.  Funny how DC has a better film out there now than Marvel does.  I’m MOST shocked that this made ~54 million opening weekend while Aquaman opened to 67 million.  This film is FAR superior to that bread sandwich.

7.5 out of 10 

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Film reviews: “Arrival”, “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates”, and “Jason Bourne”

The main 2 rules of gambling are: 1) Go with your gut and 2) Don’t be a hero, just win money. 

arrivalposterToday’s reviews are going to focus on rule 1.  When I saw the preview for “Arrival,” I said aloud, “Who gives a shit?  This is Jodie Foster’s Contact 2.0.”  And the reviews started to come in: Rotten Tomatoes loved it, some of my friends loved it, Amy Adams is going to win the Academy Award….you get the idea.  I figured since I was wrong about “Dr. Strange,” I decided to give it a go.  

So I did give it a shot.  I even saw it in the theater as other reviewers said you MUST see it in its purest form.  Amy Adams plays a master linguist who is called to service and communicate when alien spaceships land in many different countries.  Forest Whittaker and his lazy eye play an Army officer who recruits her for the position.  Tiny Jeremy Renner plays a scientist that goes with Adams to facilitate the communication betweens the aliens and Adams. And director Denis Villeneuve (did Sicario and LOVED it) is at the helm.

This film is better than Contact was but I have to admit, I was underwhelmed.  The ending was different than expected but not enough for me to pull a 180 on this film.  Just like Seinfeld, a lot of people found this to be fantastic and I’m just not with it.  You’ve seen the same plot before: aliens land on Earth, humans attempt to make contact, humans make headway, another nation wants to attack the aliens because they don’t want to wait for first strike, conflict arises, will the aliens destroy humanity or do we take them out first?

This film is alright, save your 15 bucks and watch at home.  6/10

mike_and_dave_need_wedding_dates

 

Trivia question: What do you a comedy that isn’t funny?  Answer: a Wes Anderson film.  BOOM!  Taking no prisoners, that’s for goddamn sure!  “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” is loosely based on the true story of 2 brothers who were told by their parents to bring wedding dates to their sister’s wedding in Hawaii after countless family gathering were ruined by the boys.  Zac Efron stars as one of the brothers who needs to make sure his shirt is off in at least 73% of the scene.  Anna Kendrick co-stars as a scorned bride who was left at the alter who makes it her life’s work to get on that free trip to Hawaii.  I did notice Stephanie Faracy (the mom in Great Outdoors) plays the boys’ mom and between plastic surgery and aging, Father Time has given her a vicious right uppercut to her work calendar.

When this preview came out, I said, “This COULD be that summer R-rated comedy of the year.”  And I wasn’t enamored by the preview and the reviews were as kind as a 24″ inch waist is to Rebel Wilson.  So, I watched it for free with the free (cable company which doesn’t sponsor me) points I’ve accrued.  You know a film is bad when you turn it off after 45 minutes AND YOU GOT IT FOR FREE.  I think I semi-chuckled twice, which is double the times I laughed at “Napoleon Dynamite” or any other Jack Black comedy.  Nothing gets me like a solid R-rated comedy but when the punchlines are softer than any Drake song, you lost me.  This film is dogshit and I was SHOCKED that it actually turned a profit. Anna Kendrick has a weird face and it’s funny to see her attempting to be sexy.  She’s perfect as Clooney’s protege in, “Up in the Air” and from what I saw while changing the channel, good in those, “Pitch Perfect” films.  Raunchy comedy, not her bag.  

I’d rather watch teens play in a video game tournament that finish watching this film.  2/10

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The first Jason Bourne film, solid.  The second, not so much.  The third, fantastic rebound and my favorite of the trilogy.  So when I read that Paul Greengrass (director of the 1st and 3rd films) was coming back to do the 4th Bourne and this time, I penciled this in to see in the theater.  Matt Damon reprises his title role, and we can wipe our memory banks clean of Jeremy Renner?  Cool, I’m in.  What scenes do you see over and over in the preview?  Damon dropping a dude with one punch and then yet another insane chase scene, this time on the Vegas strip.  Again, I’m in.

And then the reviews came in: nothing positive and pretty much all of them saying this was a hybrid of all 3 Damon films with no real original aspects of it.  So I didn’t see this in the theater as most of my friends confirmed these reviews.  I was going to see this and Suicide Squad in the same day and I’m glad I laid this hand down.  It’s the same recipe as all of the other films.  Hell, I think I can direct the next Bourne film.  Have an older white guy in a communications room, barking out orders to SWAT teams who are trying to locate Bourne for about 60% of the film.  The next 30% would be chase scenes mixed with a few hand-hand combat scenes.  The last 10% would be him trying yet again, to unearth even more backstory about how and why he was recruited to be an assassin. Give me 5 million bucks and the catalog rights to Moby’s, “Extreme Ways” so I can do the 234235th remix of that song and I’ll see you next summer with a 2 hour film that hopefully makes its money back.  

I again, used points from (cable company not paying to advertise with me) and didn’t pay a dollar for this film.  I wasn’t thrilled at all but hey, at least I made it all the way, unlike “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates.” The Vegas chase scene does carry on a little too long.  The plot is murky and we’re again trying to figure out his character’s as well as his dad’s history with the Treadstone.  You end up not caring about this story about 20 minutes it.  “Bourne Ultimatum” did a fantastic job of wrapping up loose ends and answering all questions.  Greengrass should’ve ended on that high note cause this note cracks and falls flat. 

I’d rather watch all of the trailers for Rogue 1 (review next week) on an endless loop than watch this again.  4.5/10

Summer 2016 films? No thank you-America

I remember like it was yesterday.  I was 12 year old back in the summer of 1989 and seeing the onslaught of summer previews made me giddy.  When you’re 12 and your social options are highly limited, (playing outside, sports, video games), the cinema is usually hangout number 1.  Being I was (still am) a HUGE film nerd/snob/afficionado, I had no problem spending a ton of time in the multiplexes.  And when we had to write one of our final essays for our 6th grade English class, I chose to write about what summer films I was most excited to see:  Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Nightmare on Elm Street 5 (I was 12, cut me some slack on some of these), Uncle Buck, Karate Kid 3, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, License to Kill (James Bond), as well as everyone’s crown jewel that summer…BATMAN.  Jesus christ, I counted the days down for that one like kids counted down until Christmas.  It came out on June 23rd (happy birthday to my then 6 year old sister, Jill) and boy, did America go all-in with this film.  24-7 showings in NYC, breaking box office records.  And look what else came out that summer that I learned to appreciate a little bit later in life: Field of Dreams (ok, it came out in late April.  Also, tied with Major League as my favorite baseball movie) Lethal Weapon 2 (Diplomatic Immnity!  Has just been revoked!), Do the Right Thing, Parenthood (still holds up), Road House, Dead Poet’s Society, and the Abyss.  I mean, wow.  I dare say probably the best summer slate I’ve ever or will ever see.

Fast forward to present day.  Every April, I still enjoy looking for that summer release schedule to see what the biggest films of the year are going to be.  And every year, I have about 3-5  I truly am excited for.  This year, Captain America 3 was my biggest anticipation and it didn’t let down.  X-Men: Apocalypse was a CLOSE second but unfortunately, this was a letdown and Singer’s first swing and a miss in this franchise.  The new Star Trek looks ok and Matt Damon is back as Jason Bourne so I was pretty sure I’d be giving my 15 bucks to see Bourne yet again.  But after that, the list went bleak.  Bleaker than Yankees playoff hopes.  Yeah, didn’t think I’d be writing that sentence in awhile but here I am.  I’m a movie reviewer for a radio station in NY but I haven’t been fully doing my job as I refuse to pay money to see crap in the theater.  I’m mainly reviewing new to DVD films, that’s how bad it is.

Here’s a list of the most likely money makers along with their budgets (domestic grosses)

Secret Life of Pets: week 1 take over 100 million, budget 75 million.  Verdict: Winner  Most cartoon films do pretty well in the summer time.  Wash, rinse, repeat.

Legend of Tarzan YTD 81 million, budget 180 million.  Verdict: BOMB  How many times do we have to tell Hollywood that no one cares about Tarzan since 1960?

Finding Dory: YTD over 400 million. Budget N/A Verdict: HUGE winner.  Pixar RARELY misses (The Good Dinosaur is the lone exception)

Independence Day: Resurgence YTD 91 million, budget 165 million Verdict: BOMB (Should’ve paid Will Smith what he wanted, probably could’ve saved this)

Warcraft YTD 46 million, budget 160 million. Verdict: COLOSSAL BOMB.  Even the gamers turned their backs on this one.

Xmen: Apocalypse YTD 158 million, budget 178 million.  Verdict: It will break even, especially with DVD and overseas but this was not supposed to be a break even or slightly profitable, it had higher expectations.  Are poor reviews to blame (yes and it wasn’t that good) or over saturation of superhero films?

BFG YTD 38 million, budget 140.  Verdict: Colossal Bomb.  Spielberg doesn’t eat shit but in this case and Indiana Jones and the Curse of the Crystal Skull, he sure did.  No one gave a shit about the 3rd most popular Roald Dahl story.

Ninja Turtles 2:YTD 80 million, budget 135 million.  Verdict: BOMBS AWAY.  Again, world box office receipts may get it to even but how do you fuck up a Ninja Turtles movie?  Answer: Keep Michael Bay in charge.

Alice Through the Looking Glass: YTD 76 million, budget 170 million.  Verdict: Nagasaki and Hiroshima combined.  No one gives a shit about the Looking Glass story anyway, why make this a live action film?

 

Next week is probably one of the most negatively discussed film that has yet to be released, the Ghostbusters film.  I hate reboots because 9 times out of 10, there’s no need to reboot a solid film.  And there’s no need to reboot a film just to force-feed us political correctness.  I loved Daisy Ridley as Rey in Star Wars.  Why?  It was organic and not contrived about this.  I love Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique and Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft for the same reasons.  The new Ghostbusters has the dubious honor of being the most negatively reviewed trailer on youtube.  Even Target put the action figures in the clearance bin (target clearance) before the movie comes out!? Yeesh, not a good sign.

And what else do we have to look forward to?

The new Ice Age film comes out soon and not one has grossed under 160 million yet.  Will America burn out on this franchise?  Maybe but I doubt it

The new Star Trek film.  Justin Lin (Fast and the Furious) takes over JJ Abrams director’s chair so we’ll see.

Jason Bourne.  Should be fine

Suicide Squad-DC’s answer to the Avengers.  Massive reshoots were ordered after the success of Deadpool because they felt more humor needed to be injected.  The real question will be how does Jared Leto handle the Joker after Heath Ledger put that character in the stratosphere with his performance.

Pete’s Dragon (live action) The Jungle Book live action was a smash but I don’t think this will be near as successful.  I never saw the original Pete’s Dragon and don’t recall anyone else looking back fondly on it.  Hell, did or do they even have a ride at Disneyworld for this film?

Ben Hur-historical reboot.  No thank you

Sausage Party-animated Seth Rogen film.  I’ll pass.

Here’s the bottom line: A lot of these tentpole films bit the big one.  Why? America is getting smarter and not dropping $15 a ticket.  And god forbid if you go see a film in 3D or even 4D where you could shell out as much as $30 a ticket for a mediocre film.  Audiences are saying no thanks, I’ll wait for Netflix or illegally stream it.  And can you blame them?  You run the risk of sitting next to assholes who are talking and chewing their food loudly.  The guy 5 rows in front of you is on his cell phone every 2.5 minutes and the light keeps distracting you.

The reason you see so many reboots is because a lot of the good ideas have been done and the knockoffs of those good ideas are mediocre at best.  Long gone are the days where an entire summer offers a variety of quality movies.  I wish they weren’t but it sure does seem that way.  And good for you, America.  Keep your wallet in your pockets and don’t pay top dollar for less than acceptable quality films.  I know I’m not…