Grade C-

 

Supposedly meant to be the last of the “Saw” movies, “Saw 3D: The Final Chapter” once again takes us into a gory and cringe inducing ride with the usual plot holes.  But a solid plot and fine acting isn’t what fans of this series are focusing on.  Outrageous traps and bloody deaths and more insight into the ever growing list of “Saw” characters are all that’s required.   And we get that in spades.

So, in this “chapter” of the series, Sean Patrick Flanery plays a Jigsaw trap survivor who earns the wrath of Jigsaw — or whomever is carrying on Jigsaw’s work — and finds himself in a series of elaborate traps that force him to make very difficult decisions and painful actions in order to save those he cares about.  Interwoven within this main plot are numerous subplots that try to tie up many of the loose threads in the previous movies.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Saw 3D: The Final Chapter” was the scene near the end when a major character is killed.  This character happened to be my favorite one of the series, so I was sorry to see this character get killed…and in a horrible way to boot.

There’s no sense in me saying adios to this movie franchise since there is another “Saw” movie after this.  And so the ride continues…

— M

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Grade B

 

The follow-up to the hit “Mama Mia!” focuses on Lily James (who plays a young version of the Meryl Streep character) and Amanda Seyfried (the daughter of the Streep character).   As Seyfried prepares for a big party that may not even happen, she and others reminisce about her mom’s life, shown in flashbacks where James takes over as the young mother to be.   James easily steals most of the scenes she’s in, showing a fun personality that seeks to enjoy every bit of life she can take in; and as she does so, we see how she meets the three men who will eventually be Seyfried’s three “fathers.”

My most memorable, movie moment of “Mama Mia!  Here We Go Again” is the scene when party revelers come to Seyfried’s island and “Dancing Queen” is played.  It just makes you want to get up and start singing and dancing.

If you enjoyed the first movie, you’ll enjoy this one.  Plenty of singing and dancing, many cute, funny moments, and a wonderful surprise at the end of the third act.

— M

 

Grade A

 

Super powered family — The Incredibles — are back in “Incredibles 2,” living in a world where superheroes are outlawed from using their super powers.   Homeless and broke, The Incredibles — headed by Holly Hunter (who plays the mom) and Craig T. Nelson (who plays the dad) — are holed up in a motel paid for by the government; in a few days, they are out and on their own.  Either Hunter or Nelson must get a regular job, while the other stays home to care for the kids.   Before a decision is made, a wealthy pair of siblings offers Hunter an opportunity to show the world how important and beneficial it is for the world to have superheroes do their thing.   The idea is to use public approval to change laws about superheroes.

Hunter is definitely down with the project; and Nelson is just down, taking a back seat to his wife, staying out of public view and being a stay at home dad.  What he thinks is an easy job turns out to be an endless struggle of parental guidance; and then there is the situation with Nelson’s infant son who shows signs of being a very powerful super.

On Hunter’s end, all seems to go well with her crime fighting activities; but a shadowy figure who can hypnotize people into doing evil things makes an appearance, and this person may be the biggest threat that any super has fought.

I was going to be politically correct and say my most memorable, movie moment of “Incredibles 2” is the scene when the Incredibles are having a tense discussion about being forced to not use their super powers…to be shut out.  The subtext of course is intolerance of those who are different.  Sounds good, right?  Screw that.  I hate political correctness.  My most memorable, movie moment of “Incredibles 2” is the scene when Hunter is walking up a long set of steps and the camera angle shows her butt for several seconds.

“Incredibles 2” lives up to the hype with an interesting plot; large, action sequences that would make James Bond producers envious; likeable characters and many funny moments.

— M

Grade B

 

Set during the American Civil War, Colin Farrell plays a wounded, Union soldier who is taken in by Southern women and girls who reside in a girls’ school.  First treated as a captive, Farrell slowly charms his way into the hearts and minds of the ladies.  As his wounds heal, Farrell becomes a friend to the girls, and a potential lover for one of the teachers (Kirsten Dunst) and the headmistress (Nicole Kidman).  But his conniving ways may trap him into situations that will reveal his true nature and bring an end to his respite from the war.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Beguiled” is the scene when **SPOILER ALERT**Farrell wakes up after having fallen from a stairway and discovers that something irreversible and cruel has been done to him.

From an aesthetic point of view, “The Beguiled” is a beautiful movie; but when it comes to the story, the original movie is superior.  **SPOILER ALERT**Gone is the female, slave character who was significant to the story; the scene when the young girl’s turtle is savagely thrown by the soldier was played out better in the original, and therefore was crucial to the girl agreeing to help poison the soldier; and in the original movie, the soldier (played by Clint Eastwood) mentioned to the ladies that he will put in a good word with the Union soldiers about the ladies so the soldiers won’t harm the them — this was another important part that was left out of the remake, as this made the death of the soldier more tragic.

So which version is the best?  It’s a tie.  Director Sofia Coppola made numerous mistakes removing vital elements from the first movie, but her direction outshines the original; and credit has to be given to cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd for this version’s exquisite visuals.

— M

 

Grade D+

 

A remake of the 1990 movie of the same name, “Flatliners” is about 5 doctors in training who experiment in near death experiences (NDEs), killing themselves for several minutes to see if there is an afterlife; and if so, what’s it all about.   Apparently, there is life after death, but it’s not exactly what the flatliners expect it to be.  This being a sci-fi/horror movie, there are side effects to their experimentation.

First, there is the euphoria, then excess energy, then heightened insight or intelligence, then sightings of spirits.  Are the creepy things that they are seeing really there, or are they losing their minds?  They need to find out soon before their NDEs become permanent DEs.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Flatliners” is the scene when Diego Luna, who plays the most level-headed and intelligent of the flatliners, joins the group voluntarily for the second time — the first time he was suckered into it and warned everyone they could lose their jobs and their freedom.  This was completely out of character and really took me out of the movie; and it was just the beginning of one shenanigan after another.

“Flatliners” has a few, good, creepy scenes; but the numerous, logical flaws severely undermines a movie that could have been much better.

— M

Grade B-

 

Director Michael Bay returns to take charge of the third “Transformers” movie, “Transformers: Dark Of The Moon.”  So here is the basic rundown of this flawed story: an Autobot ship carrying the leader of the Autobots and hundreds of devices that can teleport a planet has crash landed on the dark side of the moon.   Decepticons have known about this for quite some time, and they are gearing up to fool the Autobots on Earth to go to the moon and retrieve the powered-down, Autobot leader and a few of the teleport devices.  Of course, the Decepticons will try to steal the teleport devices to bring destruction to Earth and its inhabitants.

As this is happening, Shia LaBeouf,  hero of the previous two movies, now has a new girlfriend.  Megan Fox’s disappearance is explained in about 5 seconds when LaBeouf says she dumped him.   This is a pathetic way to brush off a loved character because some powerful, geeky, Hollywood big shot couldn’t take a joke.  Anyway, LaBeouf is once again entangled in the fight against the evil robots, screaming and joking his way through battles that would kill the average person in seconds, but somehow he lives through them with just a few manly scratches.  Hey, realism isn’t Bay’s focus, I know.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Transformers: Dark Of The Moon” is the scene when LaBeouf is being interviewed for a job by John Malkovich.  This is the craziest character I have seen Malkovich play, and he plays it to perfection.

What the audience gets from this movie is what is expected of a Michael Bay blockbuster: fast pace, slow motion sequences, fleeting, dramatic moments that are overpowered by lengthy, numerous action sequences that are amazing; nonsensical plot, comedic scenes that seem to have been written by pimply-faced, teen boys who have yet to touch a breast, and very loud, catchy music.   In general, realism goes out the window and is replaced by deafening spectacle.  While most audiences expect a bit of a break from realism here and there, most of us do not want one ridiculous, action scene after another.  That said, I am a long time fan of the “Transformers” toy line and cartoons; and that love extends to the movie versions, hence the relatively high grade I gave despite the numerous, negative aspects “Dark Of The Moon” contains.

— M

 

Grade A

 

One of the best, crude comedies with a heart, “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” stars Steve Carell in the title role, a middle-aged nerd who has given up on meeting women and settled for a dull, lifeless and sexless existence.  But when his secret comes out, his co-workers make it their mission to teach Carell what he needs so he can finally know what it’s like to have sex.

Crazy women, kinky women, substance abusing women, outrageous advice on how to pick up women…Carell endures it all; but what he really needs is the simple courage and confidence to call and ask out a woman (played by Catherine Keener) who has shown interest in Carell.  Assuming he does that, Carell still has the obstacle of not knowing what to do if and when it finally happens for him.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” is the scene when Carell is asked by his co-workers to recount his sexual encounters.   Put on the spot and obviously not having any sex stories, Carell starts making up stories until he finally trips up by describing large breasts as feeling like a bag of sand!

Crude, vulgar, funny as hell, and filled with likeable and memorable characters, “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” is a sweet story underneath all the locker room humor.

— M

Grade C-

 

Sally Field plays a woman whose life is shattered when a serial rapist (played by Kiefer Sutherland) attacks and kills Field’s daughter.  The proof that would put Sutherland away in prison for years is thrown out by the judge when the prosecution fails to provide the defense a means to test that proof.   Sutherland is free to walk the streets and smear his slime all over the world while Field seethes and contemplates murder.

Step by step, Field inches into the murky world of revenge; but she has no idea that when you study evil, evil studies you.  Field has lost one daughter, but she may lose her other child, her husband and her life if she proceeds to carry out her plan.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Eye For An Eye” is the scene when Field hears her daughter being attacked by Sutherland through her cell phone.   For several minutes we see a panicked, desperate mother whose baby is being killed and there isn’t much she can do to help.

“Eye For An Eye” is a typical, Hollywood revenge movie that piles on the clichés to the point of the audience knowing the ending before they even buy the tickets.   Don’t get me wrong, some clichés are good.  The audience expects the bad guy in this type of movie to get killed…we want to see it, we demand it, and when it finally happens we feel good.  But there is a way to execute a cliché in a manner that makes sense; and in the case of “Eye For An Eye,” the director and writers seem to have thrown sense out the window and let a 14-year-old write the third act.

— M

Grade B

In the near future, an alien race that hunts based on sound, are armor plated, and has claws that can slice through 2 inches of steel have taken over Earth.  Somewhere in upstate N.Y., a family of four — with a baby on the way — survives the invasion by making as little noise as possible.  But as the mother’s due date nears, death to the entire family may be unavoidable.

My most memorable, movie moment of “A Quiet Place” is the scene when one of the monsters follows Emily Blunt (who plays the mother) into the bathroom as she is about to give birth.  Not only is the scene very tense, it showcases Blunt’s tremendous acting abilities, which is one factor why I give this very flawed movie a high rating.

Ready for my discussion on this movie’s shenanigans?  One: the monsters are blind, yes, and they hunt based on sound…and nothing else, not smell, not taste.  Ok, maybe where these monstrosities come from there is no need to taste and smell…maybe…although that is a hard sell considering these are predators.   Two: these creatures somehow overpowered the military of the entire world, or at least that of the U.S.  Yes, these aliens are powerful and fast, but have you seen the hardware the U.S. Armed Forces have at their disposal?  Three: are we supposed to believe not one person on the planet figured out earlier that we should combat these aliens with some type of sonic warfare?   Instead the world as we know it has ended, and only then **SPOILER ALERT** does one deaf teen and her mom find out the aliens’ weakness.   And for those who say “well, maybe they did come by the millions, which explains how Earth was taken over,” I say to you that the movie doesn’t go into much detail on how the invasion occurred.   I understand it wants to concentrate on the family’s survival; but without a concrete, solid framework to set the rules, “A Quiet Place” opens itself up to questions and dissections which will reveal its flaws.  I could go on with more logical problems with this movie, but I don’t want to write a novella.

Fortunately, this movie has great acting, good cinematography and direction.  It is filled with suspense and tension that stays high all throughout the story.  Although flawed in many ways, I still found it very entertaining.

— M

Grade A –

 

Where do I begin?  Okay, I’ll write this assuming the readers haven’t watched any Marvel comics-based movie in the last 10 years.  A giant alien is on a mission to gather 6 Infinity stones that will give him so much power that he can make things happen with just a thought.  And what does this alien want to happen?  He — Thanos — wants half the universe to die because he believes overpopulation will wind up killing everyone.  So in his mind, better to have half live than none.   This is probably the biggest flaw of the movie.  You see, overpopulation will wind up killing people and animals eventually, through disease, lack of food and water, warfare, etc.  Anyway…

Thanos (played by Josh Brolin) eventually will make his way to Earth, and the superheros known as the Avengers will do everything they can to keep Thanos from carrying out his mission.  Almost every major character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is present; and if you are a big comic book fan, this movie truly is an overload…in a great way.   As you would expect, the action sequences are numerous, intense, funny, beautiful, and too often tragic.

Typical of the “Avengers” movies, the humor tries to balance the serious nature of the situation; but in this third “Avengers” movie, the body count of beloved characters is hard to bear.  Yes, future movies will guarantee some type of resurrection, but seeing one favorite character after another die is still tough for fans.

My most memorable movie moment of “Avengers: Infinity War” is the scene when Thanos explains to his “adopted daughter” why he does what he does.  Although his logic is flawed, viewers can see the depth of this character; and as the movie progresses, Thanos is ultimately the most fleshed out and most pivotal character of the movie.

Unlike most movie series that just rehashes the same crap on a larger scale, “Avengers: Infinity War” is a natural progression to all the MCU movies that came before it.   Highly entertaining and relevant to the stories that precede it, this is a movie that no Marvel Comics fan should miss.

— M

Grade B

 

Matthew McConaughey plays a single man who works in an advertising agency, hoping to helm a big account.  He makes a bet with his boss that he can make a woman fall in love with him in 10 days, and if he succeeds, he gets to handle the advertising for a big, diamond company.

Kate Hudson plays a single woman who writes fluff pieces for a magazine, hoping to get the opportunity to write serious articles.  She makes a bet with her boss that she can make a guy fall in love with her and then have him break up with her within 10 days after she deliberately does the things that would make any man run away.

It’s not long before McConaughey and Hudson meet at a party, and each makes the other their respective targets.  Hudson plays up her funny, witty, charming self, while McConaughey does everything that a woman expects from a good man.  Everything is great…for a day.  And then Hudson turns into a bipolar psycho, turning McConaughey’s world upside down.   He toughs it out, day by crazy day — but does he do it for the bet, or because he is falling in love with Hudson?

My most memorable, movie moment of “How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days” is the scene when McConaughey goes into his bathroom and sees how his medicine cabinet is filled with feminine hygiene products, courtesy of Hudson.  The look of horror on his face is priceless!

“How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days” follows the tried and true formula of a rom/com and does it very well.  The romantic leads have great chemistry and look damned good together and are very likeable, the jokes are on point, the major plot points are interesting, and although the ending can be seen for miles it’s still an enjoyable ride to get there.

— M

Grade B+

 

Adapted from Stephen King’s lesser known story, “Gerald’s Game” stars Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood as a couple who go away for the weekend to try to mend their nearly broken marriage.  A quiet, nearly secluded area, good food and wine, Viagra and handcuffs are all present to spice things up and help the couple get back on the right track again.  What could possibly go wrong?  An open front door, a heart attack, and a large, hungry dog.

Chained onto the bedposts, Gugino’s panicked mind plays tricks on her, seeing her dead husband and an alternate version of herself walking around and speaking to her and each other.  As her mind wanders from the present to the past, from consciousness to dream state, she must glean bits of valuable information that the voices in her head are trying to give to her so that she can find a way to escape.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Gerald’s Game” is the scene when Gugino wakes up at night, peers into one corner of her bedroom, and sees a large creature who looks like it belongs in one of hell’s labyrinth.

“Gerald’s Game” is a well made suspense/thriller that quickly ramps up the tension after minute 5 and doesn’t let up.  Mysteries are set up at the beginning and the truth slowly revealed as Gugino’s life and possibilities of escape fade.   It’s a tale not just of survival of the body, but also of the mind.

— M

Grade A

Director Robert Rodgriguez adapts Frank Miller’s comic book into a stylish, entertaining, and engrossing movie that rarely pulls its punches.

“Sin City” intertwines three stories of murder, corruption, greed, gluttony, love and sacrifice: a Detective (played by Bruce Willis) putting his freedom and life on the line for a kidnapped girl; a brutish thug (Mickey Rourke) with some decent qualities goes on a rampage to find the killer of a hooker; and a criminal (Clive Owen) who helps prostitutes fight the police and mob.  All three stories are ultra violent — sometimes to the point of comedy — and the main characters are memorable.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Sin City” is the scene when Willis, near the end of the movie, decides on a course of action that he believes would spare the life of someone he loves.

“Sin City” is a movie that is substantial as it is stylish.  Fans of noir and comics will have a great time with this movie, and will surely watch it again.

— M

 

Grade A

 

Three brothers (played by Brad Pitt, Aidan Quinn, and Henry Thomas) fall in love with the same woman (Julia Ormond), and their passions for her will threaten to destroy their brotherly bonds as World War I erupts in Europe.

The patriarch of the family (Anthony Hopkins), a righteous man who has had his fill of combat in his younger years, takes his three sons to Montana to live a peaceful and quiet life away from the madness.   The years are good to Hopkins and his sons, prosperous and peaceful…until Thomas returns from college with his fiancée, Ormond.   Another twist adds to the family’s troubles: Thomas, Quinn, and Pitt all volunteer to join the Canadian Army to fight in the first World War, each for their own reasons — Pitt’s reason being more poignant.

One tragic event follows another, until familial bonds are shredded almost beyond repair.  But life goes on, people persevere, and wounds sometimes heal.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Legends Of The Fall” is the scene when Pitt comes back to the soldiers’ camp after a night of raiding enemy foxholes.  On a horse, slowly riding forward and slightly slumped, Pitt is a hellish figure, face and body covered in blood, and scalps of his enemies hanging from his body.

“Legends Of The Fall” is an epic romantic / action / drama with an extremely talented cast of actors (Pitt and Ormond and Quinn and Hopkins are superb), and blessed with an expert director (Edward Zwick) and brilliant composer (James Horner).  Some will view this movie as overly melodramatic, and I can see their point; but I happen to like this movie a lot.

Yes, Maximus, I was extremely entertained.

— M

 

C-

 

“Midnight Sun” is about a teen girl (Bella Thorne) who has a disease that forces her to stay away from sunlight.  Her whole world is her house, her dad, and her best friend.  Only at night can she come out of the house, and even then she rarely does that.  One of her favorite things to do is watch a boy (Patrick Schwarzenegger) walk/skate by her house as he goes to school or swim practice.  After years of crushing on him, she finally meets him at night during one of her rare, late night excursions, and a romance slowly blossoms.  Wanting to be treated as a normal girl, Thorne doesn’t tell Schwarzenegger of her affliction, but this proves to be dangerous when both teens lose track of time.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Midnight Sun” is the scene when Thorne prepares her dad for the possibility of a worst case scenario, and she asks him to promise her that he will live a full life and do the things he hasn’t done because he was too busy caring for her.

I nickname this movie “Nicholas Sparks Lite” as it has many elements of a Sparks story, but done not as well.  These movies are emotionally manipulative — as are virtually every story ever told — and melodramatic to the point of being Kraft cheesy, but these things are to be expected of movies of this type (if you swim with sharks you don’t really have the right to complain that your foot got bit off).  My complaints about “Midnight Sun” are: Schwarzenegger’s lackluster acting skills and the dopey dialogue of the “meet cute” scenes.  Had the studio spent more time finding a more  talented actor to fill the role that Schwarzenegger took, and really fine tuning the script to get rid of the corny dialogue and expand the role of the “bitchy” teen girl to add more drama, “Midnight Sun” would have been a much better movie.   As it stands, it remains in the mediocre list.

— M

Grade B-

 

Why do I give this ridiculous movie such a high grade?  I like Bumblebee.

“Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen” throws logic out the window and doesn’t seem to care if you notice it; and of course, lots of fast paced, loud and lengthy action sequences are shoved in your face to shake off those critical thoughts you are trying to formulate.

So…who exactly are “The Fallen?”  It turns out to be a single, high ranking Decepticon, just waiting out in space for the last Prime (Optimus Prime) to be destroyed.   Oh, this Fallen dude is Megatron’s boss, and Megatron will stop at nothing to bring his boss back to power.  But, how is Megatron still alive, you wonder.  Well, the U.S. government, in its infinite wisdom, takes Megatron’s body and dumps it into the deepest part of the ocean.   Why didn’t they just let Optimus Prime tear him into so many pieces that Megatron can never come back?  Why not shoot Megatron with howitzer shells laced with phosphorous?  Why not…never mind.  Anyway, a shard of the allspark thingy from the first movie is used by the evil Decepticon transformers to bring Megatron back to life; and now the Decepticons are racing to the Middle East to activate a device that will destroy the Sun, and the Autobots and a few good humans are there to meet them head on and stop their evil plans.

Okay, I can’t wait anymore to tell you of my biggest gripe: a Decepticon Terminator.   Transformers have the power to scan a machine and take on that form, right?  But in this movie, they can now transform into Size 0 models.  Yup, skin, hair, all that.  How?  It’s not explained.  This is where I hold my hands up and just shake my head.   The revelation of the Decepticon/Terminator woman is my most memorable, movie moment of “Revenge Of The Fallen,” memorable because of how bad this screenplay can get.

Typical of Michael Bay movies, the pacing is fast, there are numerous, poignant scenes that quickly vanish, the action sequences are spectacular, and logic takes a back seat.   If you don’t take it too seriously, this second “Transformers” movie can be very entertaining.  Despite the overall stupidity of the script, it does manage to elevate itself slightly because of the running themes of friendship and loyalty and sacrifice.

— M

Grade B+

 

Loosely based on true events, “Veronica” stars Sandra Escancena as a teen girl who uses a Ouija board with her friends to summon the spirit of her father.  What comes answering her call is a malevolent entity that seeks to destroy Escancena and those closest to her.

There is no build up to the paranormal occurrences as it starts almost immediately, putting Escancena’s life into a fast, downward spiral as she desperately seeks help to end the horror and save the lives of her little sisters and brother.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Veronica” is the scene when a blind nun tells Escancena what she has done and what she is in for.  It is a scene that is masterfully crafted, chilling for the average viewer and thrilling for filmmaking buffs who enjoy watching great techniques of a director.

In many ways “Veronica” is a standard possession/haunting movie; but the fast pacing, the very good acting, and amazing photography puts this movie a few levels above the average horror offerings.

— M

Grade A

 

Good and evil alien robots that have the ability to transform into other mechanical objects come to Earth seeking a powerful artifact that can bring life or destruction.   Shia LaBeouf, who plays a teen who unwittingly owns an object that has a clue to the whereabouts of the valuable artifact, finds himself in the middle of a war between the Autobots (good Transformers) and the Decepticons (evil Transformers) when he buys a used Camaro that turns out to be an Autobot named Bumblebee.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Transformers” is the scene when Megan Fox (the love interest of LaBeouf) asks why Bumblebee, with all his alien robot technology, would transform into an old, piece of crap Camaro.  Bumblebee comes to a sudden halt, throws out LaBeouf and Fox, and speeds off.

There are many who are not fans of Michael Bay.  I think most are in the category of film snobs.   Michael Bay is great at what he does: make fast-paced, action movies that have a dramatic, driving score that accentuates the numerous fleeting but highly dramatic moments.   Realism is not his forte; but when it comes to dramatic spectacle, there are very few who can rival Bay.  He has made “Transformers” not just about robots fighting humans fighting robots; it’s also about a boy’s taste of freedom when he finally gets his first car and the opportunities it opens up with the girls.   With all the outrageous, action sequences and amazing special effects, what really connected me to this movie is the love LaBeouf has for his car —  you really have to be a guy to understand this.

— M

Grade B+

The Guardians Of The Galaxy are back in Vol. 2, which focuses on who and what the father of Chris Pratt (the leader of the “G.O.T.G.”) is.   On the run from petty, golden colored creatures, the Guardians run into a man (played by Kurt Russell) who saves them and explains to them that he is a Celestial being — basically a god, virtually immortal with great powers.  Pratt, always wanting to know who his father was and why he was abandoned, now has an answer to his questions, as well as someone he can yell at for being an absentee father.

It isn’t long before father and son hit it off; but Russell hides a secret that may rip the Guardians apart and destroy the Universe.   As if that wasn’t bad enough, the golden colored creatures and other assorted enemies make their appearances at all the wrong moments.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2” is the scene when a major character makes the ultimate sacrifice to save a loved one.   It almost brought a tear to my eye.

If you loved “Guardians Of The Galaxy,” you will like this sequel.  It comes close to reaching the quality of the first, but comes up a bit short.  The jokes are more numerous but some feel forced and aren’t that funny.  Some of the action sequences also feel too cartoony; but overall I very much enjoyed “G.O.T.G. Vol. 2” with its irreverent humor, nods to the 1980s, and sentiments to family and friendship.

— M

 

Grade C-

“Minutes Past Midnight” is a horror anthology that would have fallen flat on its face and stayed that way had it not been for three stories that redeemed it.  “The Mill At Calder’s End,” “Feeder,” and “Ghost Train” were the best of the bunch, offering very good acting, direction, cinematography, music, and screenplays.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Minutes Past Midnight” is the scene that reveals what happened to the boy who disappeared in “Ghost Train.”

Fans of horror movies should at least watch the three stories I mentioned above; and if you have some time to kill and want to watch a few ridiculous, short movies, then watch the other stories that “Minutes Past Midnight” has to offer.

— M

Grade B+

 

Near the beginning of WWII, hundreds of thousands of British soldiers and their allies were trapped by the German forces on the beaches of Dunkirk.  The ships to rescue the allied forces were few and far between, and those few that were sent were under attack from German bombers and U-boats.  The British, desperate to save at least a small portion of their trapped soldiers, decide to commandeer small, civilian boats to assist in the rescue.  This is the story of “Dunkirk.”

Told from three timelines that eventually intersect, “Dunkirk” will confuse the typical moviegoer who doesn’t fully pay attention.   One timeline starts a week before the civilian rescue; one timeline starts about a day before the civilian rescue; and the third timeline starts about one hour before the civilian rescue.   This is a complicated way of telling the story, but it is effective and absolutely necessary to keep the tension high throughout the movie and to get the audience emotionally invested in the major characters from the beginning.

Timeline one: Tom Hardy plays a British, Spitfire fighter pilot who flies to Dunkirk to engage German bombers and fighters.

Timeline two: Mark Rylance plays a civilian who takes his small boat to Dunkirk to save the soldiers trapped on the beach.

Timeline three: a young, British soldier spends days trying to escape Dunkirk in any way he can.

When I started seeing things that were familiar — the same parts of the movie told from different angles and with either more or less detail — even I was trying to figure out what was going on, but quickly figured out what Director Christopher Nolan was doing, and became very impressed with his choice of storytelling.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Dunkirk” was the scene when Hardy was still flying his plane that ran out of gas, providing air cover for the soldiers below him.

This movie would have been given an A rating had it not been for the confusing ending.  **SPOILER ALERT** Why did Hardy fly so far away from the British soldiers to land his plane, leading to his capture by the Germans?  Why not glide to an open spot on the beach close to the British?  I understand there were still tens of thousands of allied soldiers on the beach and he didn’t want to hit any of them as he landed, but come on!  Are you telling me the soldiers on the beach wouldn’t have gotten out of the way?  I am guessing Nolan wanted a dramatic ending — and it was dramatic — but that drama was ruined because it made no sense to me.  What better way to up the morale of the British and French troops by safely landing on the beach after downing several fighters and bombers despite being low on fuel and actually running out of fuel?  This man’s a hero!  Still killing the enemy with a fighter plane that ran out of fuel!  Still protecting his fellow soldiers as he glides over the beaches and shores!  And then he…keeps gliding far away from the allied troops and lands where the Germans are.   Huh? What?  Are you kidding?  Sorry, Nolan, you made a bad choice.

— M

Grade A

 

Based on the true story of a rugby team and a few family members and friends whose plane crashed into the Andes mountains.  A brief search for the plane and its occupants were made and soon called off when nothing was seen.  Low on food and with no rescue coming, the survivors resorted to eating the dead.  After several weeks of hopelessness and cannibalism, a few of the survivors decide to walk the treacherous grounds for a desperate attempt to reach Chile and send help back to those still by the crash site.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Alive” was the scene when the survivors, after deciding to eat the dead, go out of the broken plane and line up to start taking chunks of flesh from the frozen bodies that were left outside.

“Alive” doesn’t delve much into the details of the cannibalism part of the story, rather it concentrates on the courage of the survivors and the spiritual nature of their struggle and ghastly actions.  What could have easily been an exploitative movie became an uplifting one, showing the audience that people, despite horrific circumstances, can still be hopeful, dignified, and courageous.

— M

 

 

Grade B

 

The second of the Thor movies, “Thor: The Dark World” has the Universe threatened by an evil, elf ruler who wants to use something called the Aether (a powerful, energy source).  As Thor (played by Chris Hemsworth) goes from one world to the next to quell wars, as well as sulk because he misses his girlfriend (Natalie Portman), the evil guy and his evil henchmen are on the march to retrieve the Aether and bring destruction to every world he can reach.   Why?  Because he’s evil.

Hemsworth has a plan to destroy the evil elf dude, but it goes against his father’s wishes.   Hemsworth decides to do it anyway with the help of his “brother” Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and a few Earthlings who are in way over their heads.  The plan is risky, and failure means the deaths of gazillions of creatures in many worlds.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Thor: The Dark World” is the scene when ** SPOILER ALERT ** Hiddleston is told that his adopted mother has been killed in combat by the evil elf ruler.   Quiet and calm at first, Hiddleston suddenly destroys his room with his magic.  Earlier in the movie, Hiddleston uttered harsh words toward his adopted mother.

“Thor: The Dark World” was more fun than I thought it would be.  The action sequences were very good, as expected; but the dialogue and how the main characters interacted with each other were done very well, which has become the trademark of Marvel Cinematic Universe movies.  Despite the alluring special effects and thrilling action scenes, the characters are the ones we truly connect to.

— M

Grade B+

 

Shakespeare’s “The Taming Of The Shrew” is the basis for “10 Things I Hate About You,” a fun, sweet, romantic-comedy that has a surprising amount of substance.  Julia Stiles plays the “shrew,” a highly intelligent teen who is fiercely independent and speaks her mind at all times.  So what’s the problem?  Well, her sister is a social butterfly who wants to date but isn’t allowed to by the father…unless Stiles also dates.  The father’s idea is that Stiles will never date, and so the other daughter won’t either, and neither of them will do any crazy, sexual things with boys.

But two young men — one of whom is played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt — desperately want to date Stiles’ sister; and so both of them work up a scheme to have a fearless, bad boy in their school (played by Heath Ledger) to ask out Stiles.   Typical of a rom-com, the lead romantic couple “meet cute,” they start to really like each other, then a monkey wrench gets tossed into the situation that can potentially mess everything up.

My most memorable, movie moment of “10 Things I Hate About You” is the scene when Stiles gets up in front of her English class and reads a poem that is basically a list of things she hates about Ledger.  It was the most poignant part of the movie as well as showing the wonderful talent of Stiles.

What sets “10 Things I Hate About You” apart from the typical, teen rom-com are: solid, three-dimensional characters of Ledger, Stiles and Gordon-Levitt; very clever dialogue dished out by Stiles; the two lead characters are very likeable; and the great chemistry between Stiles and Ledger.   It took me almost 20 years to finally see this movie, and now I know why it is so popular.

— M

Grade B-

 

Stephen King’s novella of the same title gets a decent adaptation in “The Mist.”  After a strong storm, a large mist quickly surrounds a town, trapping dozens of people in a supermarket.  Terrifying creatures roam within the mist, hunting and killing anyone who ventures outside.  But danger also lurks within the refuge of the supermarket.  As the hours slowly tick by, the people form opinions on what is happening and how to survive it.  Three separate groups start to form, and one will overpower the others, ushering in a new level of violence and bloodshed that will rival the horrors within the mist.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Mist” is the scene when 5 survivors trapped in a vehicle make a shocking decision.  More on this below.

I have read the novella and thought it a brilliant piece of writing.  But the movie version is…far from brilliant.  Two things prevented it from being great.  First: Thomas Jane is completely wrong for the part of the main character.  His superhero looks had no place in this story.  The main character was a regular person forced to do extraordinary things under a tremendous amount of pressure and fear.  Jane was completely out of his element as he wasn’t believable at all when he tried to look afraid.  I was expecting him to suddenly walk around with his Punisher shirt on, blasting the creatures with a large, automatic rifle and saving the whole world.  Second: the ending.   I understand some of the logic that went to the decision that was made in the vehicle; but there was another option.  And the aftermath of that decision?  Depending on your values and point of view, you will either be horrified and stunned, or start to laugh.   And the fact that the ending can produce laughter tells me that it was the wrong ending to put in this movie.

The creatures were great though.

— M

Grade B-

Manny’s Movie Musings: an interesting plot set in The Bronx, NYC, “Babygirl” has Yainis Ynoa playing the title role, plotting to destroy her mom’s relationship with a younger man who has his eyes set on Ynoa from the beginning.  Ynoa’s plan involves using herself as bait; but things get messy when Ynoa develops feelings for her mom’s lover.  At an age somewhere between a woman and a girl, the innocent Ynoa has a difficult time making sense of her feelings and what she wants; and yet she plays a serious game that can destroy her relationships with her mom, her best friend, and a nice boy who likes her.  My most memorable, movie moment of “Babygirl” is the scene when Ynoa and the guy find themselves alone in a hallway late at night, staring at each other.   It is tense and very creepy.   Rosa Arrendondo gives the best performance in this indie movie that is mostly cast with unknowns.

— M

Grade B-

Knowing that more metahumans and assorted superpowered creatures will be coming to Earth with a bad attitude, Batman (played by Ben Affleck), recruits other metahumans (Gal Gadot as Wonderwoman, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, Ezra Miller as the Flash, and Ray Fisher as Cyborg) to form a league to combat all the incoming super bad dudes out there.  Affleck’s problem is that some of the metahumans in his wish list don’t want to join, and they all still have to learn how to fight as a unit.

And then comes Steppenwolf, a super bad guy who has been alive way before the invention of toilet paper, always in a pissy mood and wants to control everything he sees.  He is in search of three special boxes that will give him more power to accomplish his goals.  But the “Justice League” is there to do their best to put a wrench in Steppenwolf’s hostile takeover machine.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Justice League” is the scene when Momoa didn’t know he was sitting on Gadot’s truth lasso, and he just started spewing funny and insulting comments about his League members.   The best joke was on Affleck.

Grade B-…not bad for a movie, right?  Well, for a $300 million movie (plus the costs of advertising and distribution) it’s a failure.  For one thing, there were too many cooks in the kitchen.  With two directors working on this movie at different times, you just know certain things aren’t going to mix well.   Then there was the mandate that the movie should be about two hours long.  Hmmm…a movie that has to tell the origins of Steppenwolf, plus Aquaman, plus Cyborg, plus The Flash, plus show how Affleck gets all his people together, plus that whole thing with raising Superman from the dead and how he was going to deal with it and how the world and the League will deal with him…all that in two hours?   Studio executives…please stop taking cocaine/Vicodin/alcohol when you make decisions about a movie.  Two hours were definitely not enough to tell this story well, and it shows.

Then there are the shenanigans, such as Wonder Woman being fast enough to deflect bullets from an automatic weapon, yet where the hell was all that speed when she fought Steppenwolf?  Then you have The Flash who is supposed to be extremely fast (some sources say about the speed of light, which is 186,000 miles per second); but he is getting his ass handed to him a few times by the bad guys who have normal speed.  The same with Superman (played by Henry Cavill): he is now extremely fast and should be able to kill Steppenwolf’s minions by the thousands in a few seconds, but can’t.   Suspension of disbelief doesn’t mean the audience will forgive poor screenwriting and numerous logical flaws in the story.

Problems, problems; but $300 million does buy a lot of eye candy.  For those who want to be dazzled and entertained, this movie may do it for you.  Just don’t expect too much substance, or sense.

— M

Grade C-

 

Manny’s Movie Musings: “Detour” is an indie flick about a teen (played by Tye Sheridan) who enlists the help of a young gangster (Emory Cohen) to kill Sheridan’s dad (Stephen Moyer).  The story’s strengths are the talented, young cast (Sheridan and Cohen); and a manipulation of the timeline to produce a clever twist at the beginning of the third act plus a more shocking twist near the end.  “Detour” is weakened by the dialogue Cohen speaks, making the actor seem like a wannabe Tarantino character and the writer/director just a plain, wannabe Tarantino.  My most memorable, movie moment of “Detour” is the revelation of the twist ending that turned this somewhat entertaining movie from a suspense/thriller into a tragedy.

— M

Grade B+

 

Hundreds of years into the future, a transport ship crashes into a desolate planet with no means to send a distress signal.  A captured convict (played by Vin Diesel) on his way back to prison, a bounty hunter (played by an icy Cole Hauser), a co-pilot (played by Radha Mitchell) who is focused on saving her life at the cost of others, and a handful of assorted voyagers are the unlucky ones.

At first, Diesel is considered the biggest threat to the survivors because he is a convicted killer of many and an escape artist; but a quick exploration of the planet with three suns reveals terrifying creatures that lurk underground in the darkness, waiting for the right moment to go above ground…and that moment will come soon when a lengthy eclipse takes place.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Pitch Black” is the scene when Diesel kills a large monster easily, then says “Did not know who he was fucking with.”  Maybe Diesel is the biggest threat on the planet.

“Pitch Black” is a low-budget, sci-fi/horror movie that definitely delivers.   The story, direction, acting, pacing, and special effects are solid.  The three main characters — of Diesel, Mitchell, and Hauser — have enough depth to them to add extra layers of complexity to the story.  There is one bit of shenanigan that I will address: the numerous creatures are starving, and there aren’t enough people to feed on, so they start feeding on each other, and one is so crazed by hunger it doesn’t fly away when light — which hurts the creatures — is shined on its body as it attacks a survivor.   Why didn’t this happen more, especially when the light source of the survivors were weak and few?

— M

Grade B-

Manny’s Movie Musings: Jennifer Aniston plays a single woman whose biological clock is ticking so loudly she decides to use a sperm donor to get pregnant.  Jason Bateman, playing Aniston’s best friend, is horrified at her choice, partly because he is subconsciously in love with her.  During Aniston’s get pregnant ceremony/party, Bateman gets wasted on alcohol and drugs and switches the donor’s sperm for his own.  Aniston moves away to have her baby; and 7 years later, she and her son move back into Bateman’s city.  The boy’s personality is very much that of Bateman, who slowly realizes why that is; and now he has to decide if and when to tell Aniston of his discovery.  My most memorable, movie moment of “The Switch” is the scene when Bateman decides to make the switch because of his drug/alcohol induced accident; and out of desperation, uses an image of Diane Sawyer to help him get his product out.   “The Switch” is a typical, formulaic rom-com, meaning you’ll get exactly what you think, including the ending.  Still, it has its funny moments.

— M

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