Category Archives: Movies

At The Movies: Wish Upon

If you’re hoping that “Wish Upon” is a classic horror movie with chills, thrills, shocking twists and buckets of blood — wish again.

This is possibly the most pedestrian horror movie I’ve ever seen. The PG-13 rating ensures there won’t be lots of gore or shocking, horrific deaths, but who wants to watch an antiseptic horror film? And sure, you can make up for the lack of gruesomeness with a creepy, compelling story — but “Wish Upon” doesn’t have that either.

Joey King stars as Clare Shannon, who sits at the bottom of the high school social order with her two friends. Her mother is dead, her father is an embarrassment.

wish-upon-nuovo-trailer-e-poster-del-thriller-horror-con-joey-king-2One day while dumpster diving, dad (Ryan Phillippe) finds an antique Chinese music box, which he brings home to Clare. She can’t open it, and the only thing she can make out are the words “Seven Wishes.” Her first wish, since she’s a sweetheart of a girl, is that the most popular girl in school “go rot.”

The next day Miss Popular winds up in the hospital with a flesh-eating virus. At the same time Clare’s beloved dog dies. Coincidences? Maybe. But after a second wish comes true, Clare begins to believe.

Now a sympathetic character, upon realizing what’s going on, would’ve used her next wish to reverse the first wish, and maybe wish for world peace or a new president. Instead, Clare wishes for popularity, a boyfriend, and that her dad not be such a loser. Concurrently, bad things — like dying horribly — are happening to people around her.

With help from a potential love interest, Clare learns the rules: Every wish must be paid off with a blood debt; everything will go back to normal if you get rid of the box; if you complete seven wishes you will die.

Now the audience has figured this out long before Clare has. And the audience would not proceed to do any of the stupid things that Clare does. The movie plods its way to its inevitable ending and you’re left thinking “I wish I had gone to ‘War for the Planet of the Apes.”

In addition to being totally predictable and toothless, the film suffers for not having any characters you can root for. Clare makes so many bad choices you can’t feel sorry for her and her best friend is so obnoxious you can’t wait for her to get what’s coming to her.

Now that I think about it, teenagers may really like this.

 

At The Movies: Spider-Man: Homecoming

“Amazing” and “Spectacular” are the two adjectives most often used in conjunction with Spider-Man. But in recent years they haven’t really applied to his movie career.

The first two films by Sam Raimi and Toby Maguire fit the bill, but then the third one was a mess. The franchise was rebooted with Andrew Garfield, but that series was so misguided they didn’t even complete the trilogy.

As a result, in true comic book fashion, Sony Pictures (which has the rights to make Spider-Man movies) did a team-up with Marvel Studios (the movie arm of Marvel Entertainment, birthplace and comic book home of Spider-Man) for a third reboot of the wall-crawler.

Spidey would go back to his teenage roots and would become a member of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He made his MCU debut in “Captain America: Civil War” and is now fronting his first (for this incarnation) solo movie.

The result is amazing. And spectacular.

MV5BNTk4ODQ1MzgzNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTMyMzM4MTI@._V1_UY1200_CR80,0,630,1200_AL_Tom Holland stars as young Peter Parker, and we first encounter our hero through a home video made by Peter that gives us a humorous inside look at his role in “Civil War.” But now that mission is over and he’s itching for the next one.

His mentor, Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) doesn’t feel Spider-Man is ready for the A-team, and he’s too busy to coach him, so he leaves Peter in the hands of his trusted friend Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau).  Happy isn’t too happy with the situation and ignores Peter’s frequent phone calls.

Elsewhere in New York, Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) has been building a good business by hoarding alien technology left over from the Chitauri invasion and using it to create new weapons that he can sell on the black market. One weapon he’s kept for himself is a flying suit that earns him the name Vulture.

Needless to say, Spider-Man and the Vulture are going to come to blows. In dizzying, dazzling, summer movie fashion.

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” proves that you really can take a movie franchise that has been beaten down and seen better days and revive it into something fresh, funny and exciting. Director Jon Watts has put together a perfect blend of action, comedy, special effects, surprises and characters that you care about.

A large part of making the franchise fresh was the decision to take Peter back to his teen years and jettison or render unrecognizable a great deal of his supporting cast. Marisa Tomei is not your grandmother’s Aunt May. Uncle Ben is nowhere to be seen. J. Jonah Jameson and the Daily Bugle have not yet entered the picture. Peter now has a best friend (Jacob Batalon) and a multi-cultural lineup of high school comrades. One thing hasn’t changed — the Parker luck when it comes to women, in this case Liz (Laura Harrier).

“Homecoming” solidly brings Spider-Man into the Marvel movie world. If you haven’t been following the Marvel Studios films then you may feel a little lost, but then what are the odds you’re going to a Spider-Man movie and aren’t already well versed in the MCU?

This isn’t an origin story, a brief mention of being bitten by a spider is all you get. And that’s a good thing, because everyone knows Spidey’s origin by now, so best to just get down to business. Funny, amazing, spectacular business.

 

 

 

 

 

 

At The Movies: Baby Driver

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By Paul Kennedy, guest reviewer

Driver of the Baby was great, and very stylish.

At The Movies: Transformers: The Last Knight

Why do I keep watching these stupid Transformers movies?

I don’t care for any of the characters, human or robot. I find them all cliché and varying degrees of annoying. The stories are a mix of repetitive and incoherent. The dialogue is painful to the ears, as is all the explosive noise. The frequent juvenile attempts at humor rarely hit the mark, if ever. They go on way, way too long. It’s not nostalgia — I never played with a Transformers toy or watched the cartoons.

And yet there I was, again, sitting through 2-and-a-half hours of “Transformers: The Last Knight.”

I go to these things for the special effects, I guess. Michael Bay is very good at spectacle. Nobody can blow stuff up and send people flying through the air in slow motion quite like him. The action pieces are always well done, and there are a lot of them. The sweeping vistas of the English countryside were pretty. Outer space and giant, fighting robots are always cool to look at.

Still, I think I may have reached maximum Bay with this, the fifth but probably not final Transformers movie.

traqnspostFor those who have forgotten, such as myself, the previous film ended with head robot Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) leaving Earth for his home planet of Cyberton. He was miffed about something, I don’t remember what. When he gets there he’s imprisoned by Quintessa (Gemma Chan), who eventually brainwashes him as they fly the planet to Earth, which she plans to destroy once she gets some really important artifact that some Transformer gave to Merlin the Magician back in days of yore.

That’s right. The big conceit of “The Last Knight” is that Transformers have been hanging out on Earth for thousands of years, fighting with King Arthur’s knights and killing Nazis and in general helping out whenever they can. Now, you’d think there would be some kind of record of giant, transforming robots fighting with the Allies in WWII — but if you’re thinking, you really shouldn’t be watching a Transformers movie.

Meanwhile, back on the home world, the Transformers have once again fallen out of favor with the human race. As a result, they’re all hiding out in a giant junkyard with inventor/Sam Witwicky replacement Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg). They’re joined by a young girl (Isabela Moner) and her silly robot pal because, well, why not?

Anthony Hopkins decides to do some slumming and shows up here as a proper British gentleman who’s in charge of guarding the secret history of the Transformers. He has a really annoying robot butler. Laura Haddock stars as an arrogant Brit who turns out to be a descendant of Merlin, which is convenient because she’s the only person who can find the artifact that’s so important to the plot. There are also several interchangeable soldiers and robots.

Eventually there’s a big showdown when Cyberton shows up in Earth orbit. Now, you’d think another planet coming so close to ours would cause all kinds of havoc and pretty much destroy the Earth just by being there — but if you’re thinking, you really shouldn’t be watching a Transformers movie.

Anyhow, if you’ve enjoyed all the earlier Transformers films — and if you have, we should probably talk about your taste in movies — then you might like this one. It’s more of the same. There’s really nothing more than meets the eye.

 

 

At The Movies: The Mummy

It’s hard to believe that a summer action movie starring Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe would pale in comparison to a similar film starring Brendan Fraser, but that’s “The Mummy” for you.

This latest take on the ancient Egyptian creature feature has decent special effects but lacks everything else that made Fraser’s 1999 version memorable — like humor, fun, likable characters and an interesting story.

Cruise stars as soldier/tomb raider Nick Morton. With his partner Chris (Jake Johnson), Nick is on a tour of duty in war-torn Iraq, making time to make off with whatever antiquities he can steal. One day they accidentally uncover the buried tomb of Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella).

the-mummy-poster-2-988842Thousands of years earlier, the princess was in line to be Pharoah of Egypt. When her mother gives birth to a baby boy, a jealous Ahmanet makes a deal with the death god Set. She murders dad and brother and is about to give Set life by murdering her lover when the authorities arrive. They haul the princess off to Mesopotamia, wrap her up and bury her alive, where she stays safely imprisoned until Nick sets her loose.

Chris is killed in the process but comes back as a zombie to give Nick advice. This bit was lifted from “An American Werewolf in London” and probably many other horror movies I can’t remember or haven’t seen.

Archaeologist and potential love interest Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) takes Nick and the mummy to London to be examined by her boss, Dr. Henry Jelkyll (Russell Crowe), head of a secret organization that hunts monsters and evil. Yes, that Dr. Jelkyll.

If being entombed for centuries isn’t going to keep Ahmanet down, neither are Jelkyll’s chains. Since he set her free, Nick is now the mummy’s “chosen one,” which means she can get in his head and make him do things for her. But what she really wants is to reclaim her magic dagger so she can kill Nick and let Set free.

“The Mummy” is a perfectly average horror/action movie but perfectly average really doesn’t cut it in this day and age. There’s nothing original here, the story is thin and just plods along — it’s a very lackluster affair. The special effects are OK but nothing memorable.

This is the second week in a row where a summer movie opens with a woman in the title role, but “The Mummy” is no “Wonder Woman.” If Universal is hoping to kick off a big monster movie franchise with this film, they need to do a lot better next time.

At The Movies: Wonder Woman

Let’s get the history lesson out of the way first: “Wonder Woman” is not the first live action comic book superhero movie to feature a female lead. There was “Supergirl,” (1984), “Catwoman” (2004) and “Electra” (2005).

Granted, this is the first one that didn’t suck, so I suppose from that perspective it is historic. It’s also the first truly fine film that DC has released since they decided to ape Marvel’s success at building a cinematic universe around their stable of superheroes.

But then, we already knew that Gal Godot’s Wonder Woman was special when she stole the show from the all-star leads of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” If she could bring light and heart to that dark and dour picture, imagine what she could do on her own.

Director Patty Jenkins has cracked the code (which isn’t really that secret) to making a great superhero movie — a charismatic lead, a strong supporting cast, stellar special effects, gorgeous scenery and sets, a story with humor and human emotion as well as fight scenes and explosions, and fight scenes and explosions. OK, the villain is lacking but that’s par for the course as well.

timthumbGal Gadot stars as Diana, princess of Themyscira, the hidden island home of the Amazons. The two most important women in her life (and it’s only women in her life) are her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and her aunt, Antiope (Robin Wright), leader of the Amazon warriors.

Diana wants to learn how to fight but mom doesn’t approve, so Antiope gives her lessons in private. This training comes in handy when several German soldiers show up on the beach with guns blazing.

The Germans stumbled onto the island while chasing an American spy, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), whose plane crashed shortly before their arrival.

The Amazons make quick work of the intruders and interrogate Trevor using their truth lasso. Trevor has stolen a book that could turn the tide of the war that’s raging back in Man’s World if he can get it back to British intelligence. Diana journeys to London with Trevor, convinced the war is being orchestrated by Ares, the god of such things.

With the support of Sir Patrick Morton (David Thewlis), the duo put together a ragtag team to travel to the front to stop the machinations of Doctor Poison (Elena Anaya) and General Erich Ludendorff (Danny Huston), whom Diana suspects is the God of War.

“Wonder Woman” combines the mythological elements of “Thor” with the wartime heroics of “Captain America: The First Avenger” to deliver the year’s third great superhero movie (it’s been a really good year for the genre, and we still have a few more to go). And while most of the action takes place in the World War I-era, the film is book-ended by scenes in the present day to remind us, yes, this is a partial setup for “Justice League.”

It’s not flawless — we’re still dealing with one-dimensional villains and the final showdown is too reminiscent of the Superman/Doomsday battle in “BvS.”

I’ve already mentioned all the reasons that make this movie good, but one element bears repeating. Some people may have thought Gal Gadot was an odd choice to play the Amazon princess, but it’s hard now to imagine anyone else in the role. She’s tough, beautiful, charming and plays the role with the right mix of intelligence and naiveté. She’s terrific.

You thought I was going to say wonderful, didn’t you?

 

 

At The Movies: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Well, that was better than I was expecting. Although, to be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. And I’m not saying it’s a great film, but it’s better than the last one, which admittedly isn’t saying much. I can’t imagine it being any worse than “Baywatch,” which is your alternative holiday weekend movie release.

I guess what I’m trying to say is “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” is kinda fun, pretty silly, too long, and nicely brings the story back around to its original characters and ties things up in a nice bow. It even gives an origin story of sorts for its lead character. If it were the end of the series, it would be a nice way to go out. So lets all hope it bombs at the box office so they don’t ruin things by making another one.

potc_dmtnt_poster_by_jackiemonster12-db3wuivHenry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), young son of Will (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) — the star-crossed lovers of the original trilogy — is looking for a way to break the curse that keeps his father trapped aboard the Flying Dutchman. According to legend, the answer is the trident of Poseidon, mythical god of the sea.

The key to finding the trident lies, of course, with that rum-loving pirate, Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp).

Now this can’t be a simple team-up and find the trident story, that’s not enough plot for a PotC movie. So enter Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem), an undead sea captain who steers a massive ghost ship and has a grudge against Sparrow. He wants revenge for past wrongs and will destroy every vessel in the ocean to get at Jack.

Then there’s Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), an astronomer (often mistaken for a witch) with a secret past who is also looking for the trident. And you can’t have a PotC movie without Jack’s rival, Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), who gets dragged into the story because Salazar is crippling his ships looking for Sparrow. And, of course, he wouldn’t mind having the trident for his own purposes.

“Dead Men Tell No Tales” shares all the pluses and minuses familiar to all the movies in the franchise. On the plus side, the special effects are impressive, the cast in engaging, and the action sequences are thrilling. On the minus side, the movie goes on too long, the action sequences go on way too long, the story is convoluted, and Jack just isn’t as charming as he used to be.

Still, it was good of them to bring back Will and  Elizabeth, even if only briefly, and resolve their story and wrap up others — at least until things get all upended for the next one.