Archives for posts with tag: entertainment

Grade B

 

A famous writer (played by James Caan) gets into an accident while driving through a blizzard and is rescued by his “number one fan” (chillingly played by Kathy Bates).  With an injured shoulder and badly broken legs, Caan is bedridden and is cared for by Bates, who at first comes off as a guardian angel; but as time passes, she proves herself to be quite the opposite.  Caan utilizes all the imagination of a brilliant writer to find an escape, but it may not be enough to counter Bates’ devious mind.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Misery” was the “hobbling” scene.  No matter how many times I’ve seen it, it still makes me cringe.

Rob Reiner does a good job of directing this Stephen King story.  All the elements of a good suspense tale is here, and Bates’ performance takes this movie to a higher level of quality.

— M

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Grade B+

 

Manny’s Movie Musings: “Letters From Iwo Jima” is one half of a two movie set about the World War II battle on the island of Iwo Jima. Directed by Clint Eastwood, the movie focuses on the Japanese soldiers’ perspective; and is based on the letters the commanding officer of Iwo Jima wrote to his family.  “Letters…” shows the hopes, fears, and struggle of the island’s defenders in a way that humanizes them.  Strip away the combat and uniforms, and what you have are mostly young men who love their families and just want to go home and live ordinary lives.  Sounds like most people, right?  My most memorable, movie moment of “Letters From Iwo Jima” is the scene when an officer commands his men to commit suicide, and one by one, each grabs a grenade, pulls the safety pin out, and holds the small bomb close to their chest until it explodes.  This is the rare scene in this movie that shows a drastic difference between American and Japanese soldiers in WW II.

— M

Grade B+

 

Lindsay Lohan plays a home schooled teen raised in Africa who is finally going to a regular school.  She will quickly find out that nothing is regular in the High School that she will go to.  The teachers are a bit mentally off; and the students are like a microcosm of the wild animals that Lohan has seen during her African upbringing.   Alone in this teen jungle, Lohan must carefully navigate the numerous cliques of jocks, burnouts, cool Asians, wannabes, nerds, and the powerful “Mean Girls” ruled by Rachel McAdams.

Lohan quickly befriends two outcasts who persuade her to join the mean girls and use whatever secrets they tell Lohan to help bring down the mean girls’ reign of terror.  Lohan reluctantly agrees; but when one wears a mask for a long time, it becomes difficult to distinguish the real face from the mask.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Mean Girls” is the scene when McAdams discovers she has been duped into eating “health” bars that actually makes a person gain weight.  The long scream that came out of her mouth was priceless!

“Mean Girls” flies high above the average teen rom/com/revenge flick because of Tina Fey’s script, Mark Waters’ fine direction, and the good acting of the principal actors.  It’s no wonder this movie has many repeat viewings.

— M

 

Grade C-

The sixth movie of the “Saw” franchise has the usual ingredients that fans of the series enjoy: traps that lead to gory deaths that will make the audience cringe and probably laugh, rapid-fire cuts in editing, a fast pace, and the surprise twists at the end.  Although Jigsaw (played by Tobin Bell) is dead, he makes appearances through flashbacks and causes pain and suffering via his last wishes that is given to his wife and Costas Mandylor, who plays a dirty cop who continues the work of making people suffer and die for not appreciating their lives — apparently, being a smoker or a secretary to an insurance company is enough to put you in one of the traps.  As Mandylor carries on the brutal games, the F.B.I. comes close to revealing who the new Jigsaw is, forcing Mandylor’s hand to prevent this from happening.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Saw VI” is the scene when Shawnee Smith’s character is revealed to have some connection with what happened to Jigsaw’s unborn child — a connection that will lead to some of the crucial moments of this movie.

Making most of the victims in “Saw VI” health insurance workers was an interesting way to try to get the audience to get more emotionally involved in the story.  After all, isn’t it more fun to see characters you hate suffer?  Despite this and the extra revelations of how some major characters are connected with the others, this series is well past retirement age.  But as long as it is profitable, Hollywood will prop it up on walkers and an oxygen tank and put it to work again.

— M

Grade A-

From the “fake” trailer that was in the “Grindhouse” double feature movie, “Machete” is the fully realized version, starring the incomparable Danny Trejo as an ex-Federale who winds up as a day laborer in the U.S.  Picked by a man to assassinate a Donald Trump type politician (played by Robert De Niro), Trejo takes the job and before he can fire a shot, he is double crossed and set up to take the fall for De Niro’s attempted assassination.  Wounded and on the run from the police and De Niro’s henchmen, Trejo is helped by an underground network of Mexican immigrants to get his revenge on those who wronged him.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Machete” is the scene when Trejo goes to the house of De Niro’s main henchman.  Holding garden tools, Trejo tells the bodyguards that he is the new gardener.  The bodyguards let Trejo pass; and one of the bodyguards says something like “You ever notice how we let a Mexican inside our homes just because he’s carrying garden tools?”  It’s the funniest line in the movie.

“Machete” is a hyper-violent, often silly, fast paced, action/comedy that revels in its absurdity and glorifies the 1970s cheesy action/revenge flicks.   Obviously not meant to be taken seriously, this movie is best viewed with friends as you munch on unhealthy snacks and drink unhealthy beverages.  As a bonus to viewers, “Machete” has a surprisingly complicated plot for a movie that focuses on outrageous, bloody violence.

— M

Grade C-

A family of four, including an autistic boy, takes a trip to the Grand Canyon and the boy falls into a cave that contains five stones that keep five ancient demons at bay.  The boy picks up the stones, puts them in his backpack, and joins the family and everybody goes home and weird things start to happen.

Strange noises, putrid smells, wild animals appearing suddenly, handprints…things escalate rapidly and the boy is blamed; but the parents wonder  maybe there are ghosts, but maybe it’s just the boy and he is becoming dangerous, then again maybe there are spirits, but the boy is acting funny and started a fire and almost burned down the house…the family can’t seem to make up its mind on what to do with the autistic son.  So he stays in the house and more weird but violent things happen.  The daughter knows there is something supernatural going on; the mom (played by Radha Mitchell) finally catches on and does research on the internet about paranormal stuff; and the dad (played by Kevin Bacon)…ha ha, good luck trying to convince him there are evil spooks in his house.

Oh, somewhere in the 2nd act, the daughter is revealed to be bulimic; Mitchell falls off the wagon and resumes her drinking problem; and Bacon is revealed to have cheated on his wife in the past and he has to deal with a hot assistant who is tempting him — all subplots that are completely unnecessary and makes the movie wander around and lose focus.  I believe the writer and director were trying to convey how the family was falling apart because of the influence of the evil spirits; but these things could have easily been cut out and made the story leaner and tighter with a better pace.

Back to the focus of “The Darkness”: the five demons are slowly using the boy to create a pathway for them to enter our world and destroy it. Why?  Um, it’s not mentioned, so I have to assume that they are just being demons.  Bacon and Mitchell must find a way to figure out what is going on and how to stop the evil from getting through, or else the world is doomed.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Darkness” is the scene when the portal opens up fully and instead of the spirits coming out, the autistic son goes in and the spirits are taking him deeper into the cave where the stones were originally hidden.  Huh? What?  Aren’t the spirits supposed to enter our world and destroy it?  So why are they retreating further into the cave where they have been trapped for hundreds of years?  Maybe I missed something but I don’t think so.  It just doesn’t add up.

“The Darkness” is well acted, well directed, has a decent plot, and provides a few scares that are mostly cheap.  From a technical point of view, it is mostly competent, the way a base model Honda Civic is competent at its job…but no way in hell does a Civic give you the same excitement and joy and fear as driving a Lamborghini Aventador will.  Understand?

— M

Grade B-

If you set aside the fact that our military cannot be duped so easily as to believe that the enemy on the radio is a U.S. soldier, you may find this movie very entertaining.

“The Wall” is about a sniper team (Aaron Taylor-Johnson as the spotter, and John Cena as the shooter) who are sent in to investigate the killings of a pipeline crew and their security force by a possible sniper.  Having watched the area for almost one full day, Cena decides the enemy is long gone, and takes a walk toward the killzone.  Cena is soon shot in the stomach, Johnson tries a rescue and gets shot himself; and Johnson takes cover behind one crumbling wall.  With Cena a possible KIA and Johnson’s radio broken from being shot, Johnson is stuck where he is.  If he makes a run for it, the sniper will kill him.  If Johnson stays put, he’ll either bleed out from his wound or die of thirst.  Making matters worse is that the enemy sniper is on the same frequency as Johnson’s and Cena’s radio headsets, setting up a tense, psych warfare that will test Johnson’s will to keep fighting.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Wall” is the final scene that reveals what happened to the enemy sniper.

“The Wall” is a decent suspense/thriller that is undermined by the writer and director who chose to ignore realism in order to move forward with the story they wanted to tell.  But as I wrote earlier, if you choose to ease up on your critical thinking of the story, “The Wall” will be worthy of your time.

— M

Grade B

One of the first slasher movies that popularized this sub-genre of horror movies, “Halloween” broke new grounds with its style, music, and minimalist production — this was a low budget movie, after all — and scared millions of fans during its day.

Jamie Lee Curtis stars in “Halloween” as a babysitter who goes up against “the boogeyman,” a psychopathic killer who escaped an insane asylum to go back to his hometown on Halloween to terrorize his old neighborhood.   During the day, the boogeyman chooses and stalks his victims; and when night falls, he strikes.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Halloween” is the scene when the boogeyman, a.k.a. The Shape, a.k.a. Michael Myers, slowly appears from the shadows behind Curtis.

Today’s audience probably can’t appreciate this movie because they are used to slick, big budget horror movies that have lots of gore and a high body count.   Granted, “Halloween” does suffer from victims doing stupid things that turn them into victims instead of survivors.  But this is a well-directed movie that rises above other slasher flicks of its day because of the genius of writer/director/producer/composer John Carpenter.

— M

 

Grade B-

A highly controversial movie by director Sam Peckinpah, “Straw Dogs” stars Dustin Hoffman and Susan George as a married couple living in an English countryside who endure an escalating series of attacks by local goons.

Hoffman plays the calm and gentle mathematician who chooses to be ignorant of the menacing nature of the local men he hired to work on finishing his garage; while George plays the young, petulant wife who notices the little threats all around her but cannot persuade her husband to see things as she does.  Hoffman judges George to be childish and silly, and George accuses Hoffman of being a coward.  Soon both will be tested to their limits, and their true natures will be exposed when the goons lay siege to their farmhouse and demand something that Hoffman cannot comply with.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Straw Dogs” is the most controversial segment of the movie, **SPOILER ALERT** the double rape of George.  Controversial for three reasons: 1) its raw brutality (this is a 1971 movie, don’t forget); 2) George appears to enjoy the final moments of the first rape; and 3) it is insinuated that George is anally raped during the second rape.   This part of the movie is something that movie fans will heatedly argue over for many years to come.

“Straw Dogs” isn’t a movie for the faint of heart nor for those looking for a quick thrill.  It starts off very slowly, and the suspense builds up gradually until what is left is a devolution of human nature to its basest instincts.

— M

Grade B –

A low budget horror flick, “Abattoir” is about a strange, old man (played by Dayton Callie) who buys houses where brutal crimes have happened.  The rooms where the crimes occurred are removed, and the house is put on sale again at a loss.  One such house belonged to slain relatives of a reporter (played by Jessica Lowndes).  Finding it extremely strange that the house would be sold within a week of the crime, plus the crime scene was gutted out of the house, Lowndes starts an investigation that will lead her to Callie and a creepy town where evil secrets are tied with Lowndes’ past.

My most memorable, movie moment is the scene when Callie shows off his Abattoir to Lowndes, revealing all the horrors within.  This is where the movie really shines, showing the audience dozens of murder rooms and seeing the ghosts within go through an endless loop of suffering and dying.

Unfortunately, “Abattoir” suffers from many shenanigans that ruined a very good, original idea.  How did the cop/ex-boyfriend know exactly what house Lowndes was in when she went to the creepy town?  Despite being way in over their heads and warned repeatedly to leave and never come back, Lowndes and ex come back immediately instead of leaving and coming back with a larger force of cops, or at least more guns.  **SPOILER ALERT** How stupid and desperate and retarded were the people of the creepy town to have followed Callie and sacrificed so much for a better life?**And why would the police allow a crime scene to be gutted out of the house within days of the crime?

But for Callie’s good performance and the originality of the plot, “Abattoir” would have plunged into a much lower grade.  For horror fans, there is enough here to warrant at least one viewing…just don’t expect too much.

— M

 

Grade C-

An inferior remake of the original, “Planet Of The Apes” (2001) has Mark Wahlberg playing an astronaut who gets sucked into a time warp thingy in space and crash lands on a planet where apes rule and enslave primitive humans.   Luckily for Wahlberg, a female ape (played by Helena Bonham Carter) has the hots for him (!) and sets him free.  With the help of a couple of apes and a band of humans Wahlberg has set loose, they search for his ship that contains a device that can send an S.O.S. to Wahlberg’s mother ship.  Closing in behind Wahlberg’s group is a large, ape army all stirred up to kill Wahlberg and any human who dares defy the dominance of apes.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Planet Of The Apes” is the final scene, which is a surprise, twist ending.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t make sense.  I suspect idiot, studio executives were to blame, probably counting their chickens before they hatched (or should I say counting their monkeys before they were born), looking for a way to introduce a possible sequel and didn’t care that it made no sense.  Damn you, idiot, studio execs!   Damn you all to hell!

In a nutshell, this remake of “Planet Of The Apes” is a rock covered in a fancy wrapper.  It doesn’t matter how pretty the wrapper is…what you have is still a rock.

— M

Grade C +

The second movie to try to capitalize on the hit, video game series “Silent Hill,” “Silent Hill: Revelation” has a father and daughter (played by Sean Bean and Adelaide Clemens, respectively) forced to go back to a place where evil waits to be unleashed upon the entire world.  Clemens knows she is the key to the release of this great evil, but she risks it all to save her father.  Into the nightmarish world of Silent Hill she goes, where failure will doom her and the world into an eternity of hell.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Silent Hill: Revelation” is the scene when Clemens’ sort of love interest — played by Kit Harrington — sees some weird and scary stuff in Clemens’ apartment.  Having known her for less than a day, and having been warned by Clemens that Harrington does not want to know her, he still stays with her and helps her!  He’s either an extremely nice guy or extremely horny.  As it turns out, there is another reason for his decision to stick it out with her.

The biggest flaw of “Silent Hill: Revelation” is that it’s not scary enough.  I’ve played some of the “Silent Hill” video games…those were scary as hell (I played them in the dark).  The movie’s focus is on action instead of palpable dread and terror, giving the audience a lot of eye candy at the expense of horror.  This is an inexcusable failure on the writer, the director, and the studio.  All they had to do was follow what the video games did.  Simple, right?  Apparently, not for some people.  There’s a saying: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

— M

Grade C+

A family of three survives the apocalypse (some type of disease — and that’s really all the information the audience gets) in a large, boarded up house in the woods.  A stranger breaks in looking for water, and the father (played by Joel Edgerton) decides to trade water for some of the stranger’s food.  They apparently bond so well that the stranger and his wife and young child move in Edgerton’s house. For a while they all live happily like a hippie commune until an event brings the possibility of disease within the house, an event that is never fully explained and is one reason why this movie gets a low grade.  From this point on, some of the worst natures of people in times of crisis comes out, mostly from Edgerton; and this is what “It Comes At Night” is truly about, the monstrous nature of people that lie dormant, waiting for the right moment to emerge.

My most memorable, movie moment of “It Comes At Night” is the scene when **SPOILER ALERT** Edgerton is tracking a mother and her young son, finds them, aims his rifle at them and…

The extremely misleading title of “It Comes At Night” will frustrate many viewers because the title and trailers leads us to believe there is a monster out there stalking people at night, which is not the case.  The lack of info on how the disease is transmitted, and several plot holes will further aggravate the viewer, as is proven in the overwhelmingly negative reviews in so many outlets.  But I happen to like this movie’s study in human nature in times of disaster and the question it poses: what price will you pay for survival?

— M

Grade B+

Samuel L. Jackson plays the hitman and Ryan Reynolds plays the bodyguard in the action/comedy “The Hitman’s Bodyguard.”  Why would the most feared hitman need a bodyguard?  Because a dictator is on trial for war crimes, and the only one who could incriminate him is Jackson.  Taking Jackson from prison to the courtroom will be a hell of an ordeal, because the dictator has his goons out in force to stop Jackson from testifying.  And that’s where Reynolds comes in…unofficially hired by Interpol to protect and escort Jackson to the trial.  Unfortunately, both men are sworn enemies, and they may kill each other before the bad guys get to them.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is the flashback scene when Jackson meets his future wife (outrageously played by Salma Hayek) for the first time.  It was funny and sexy with an overdose of hyper violence.

“The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is loaded with shenanigans; but this is a movie that isn’t meant to be analyzed for story logic.  This is a fun and very funny, graphically violent movie that shines every time Reynolds and Jackson are onscreen together.  Kudos to director Patrick Hughes for adding energy to the story with his slick direction that really complements the script and lead actors.

— M

Grade A

Based on the novel by Stephen King, “It” is a story of seven children who are considered outcasts in school, their everyday fears overshadowed by a creature that has awakened, taking the form of a clown (played by Bill Skarsgard).  Summer is supposed to be a time of fun for children.  Not so for the seven outcasts — calling themselves the Losers — who have to fight a war on two fronts: the terrors that most children face; and the supernatural entity that threatens to kill them one at a time unless the Losers Club bands together and takes the fight to the creature.

My most memorable, movie moment of “It” is the scene when the girl member of the Losers is attacked by her father who has been molesting her.  This scene alone makes the movie unfit for young children, and disturbing for most people to watch.

“It” should bring back many childhood memories of those who watch it.  The best of times (summer days of playing, hanging out with friends and teasing each other, first crush on a girl) and the troubling times (being a loner, feeling like a loser, the start of a girl’s period, being bullied, the mental/verbal/sexual abuse that some parents inflict on their children) are vividly and sometimes graphically exposed in “It.”  Although most of the lead actors are children, “It” is meant for adults, and adults will have a great time watching this movie that is horrifying, funny, and very, very well made.

— M

 

 

Grade B+

This adaptation of the Jane Austen novel of the same title stars Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet as two sisters with different personalities who do their best to manage suitors and a much downgraded lifestyle than they were accustomed to.  Thompson is the eldest sister, reserved and growing an attachment to a man who cannot seem to express his intent toward her; and Winslet is the headstrong, passionate sister who rushes into a romantic relationship with a man who is as passionate and lively as she, but spurns the affections of an older, emotionally reserved man.  The secrets of the suitors will eventually be brought to light, and how the sisters handle these secrets will either destroy or uplift them.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Sense And Sensibility” is the scene when Thomson’s love interest tells her the full story of why he did the things he did, and how he wants to proceed in the immediate future.  I realize it’s a bland recounting, but it was done to not spoil what I consider the most dramatic part of the movie.

Everything about this movie is superb…except the running time.  At 136 minutes, parts of Austen’s novel had to be cut and/or trimmed down; and when you do that, it obviously damages the story.  For those who think this adaptation is amazing as it stands, I suggest you watch the near 3 hour BBC version which deserves an A+ rating.

— M

Grade B-

It’s a rare thing to have the sequel of a movie to be equal to or better than its predecessor.  “28 Weeks Later” is one of those rarities.

28 weeks after the outbreak of the “rage” virus that turns people into rabid, maniacal killers, an American led NATO force begins the clean up and reconstruction of England.  Displaced survivors are now filtering in to a large district controlled by the military.  But two children, a brother and sister, will enter the district and set forth a chain of events that will bring back infection, death and destruction.  Two U.S. soldiers (played by Jeremy Renner and Rose Byrne) have the opportunity to minimize the effects of the new outbreak; but their chances are slim when they are going up against hundreds of infected and soldiers ordered to kill everyone on sight.

My most memorable, movie moment of “28 Weeks Later” is **SPOILER ALERT** the scene when Renner gets out of a stalled car to push it — and those inside the car (Byrne and the two children) — to safety, while soldiers behind Renner are getting their flamethrowers ready to burn him and the car.

A few glaring shenanigans destroyed the A grade I wanted to give this movie.  1) a woman who is a carrier of the virus doesn’t have armed guards posted at her door 24 hours a day; 2) the lead infected has thinking abilities that are not present in any other infected, and the movie never explains why; and 3) a glorified janitor has access to the most sensitive areas of the military compound.  Still, “28 Weeks Later” is an above average horror movie.  Very good acting, direction and editing; a fast pace, numerous tense and horrifying scenes keeps the viewer entertained all the way to the last second.

— M

Grade D+

A weak biopic of Tupac Shakur (played by Demetrius Shipp, Jr.).  His childhood, his early foray into rap, his rapid rise in the hip hop world, his friendship and falling out with rapper Biggie Smalls, joining Suge Knight and Death Row Records, his part in the feud between some East Coast rappers and West Coast rappers, his legal troubles, his time in prison, and the shooting that led to his death are all shown in this disaster of a movie.

There were three outstanding things in “All Eyez On Me”: 1) Demetrius Ship, Jr. looks very much like Tupac, and his acting was decent; 2) Dominic L. Santana, who plays Suge, stole the whole movie with his imposing and threatening presence; and 3) some of the musical scenes were very entertaining.   But these three things do not overcome the inadequacies of the director — who I won’t even name because you won’t know who the hell this guy is — and the disastrous editing and the grossly inferior screenwriting.  You’ve been warned.

My most memorable, movie moment of “All Eyez On Me” is the scene when Shipp is in the studio, energetically putting his vocals to the song “California Love,” one of the best rap songs ever made.

— M

Grade A-

Four people desperate to survive a virus that turns people into maniacal, rabid killers make a desperate escape out of London.  With a taxicab full of food and plenty of hope, they gamble their lives on a place that offers food, weapons, and protection.  But what lies in wait for them may be a bigger nightmare than the hundreds of thousands of the infected.

My most memorable, movie moment of “28 Days Later” is the scene when Cillian Murphy (playing the lead role) is chased by the infected who were lying in a dormant state in a dark church.  To me, this was the scariest part of the movie, and it shows early on the skills director Danny Boyle has in creating a horrifying and suspenseful atmosphere.

As far as I know, “28 Days Later” is the first movie that has fast moving, non-zombie/infected/seriously angry people who can infect others within seconds, so it gets a special mention for that.  Although technically not a zombie flick, I put this movie in the same category as zombie movies, and it is one of the top 10, best zombie movies ever made.  Yes, it has some shenanigans such as: the taxicab able to ride over a heap of abandoned cars in a tunnel; and the bad guys unnecessarily moving someone miles away from their base to kill them, which leads to an escape (reminds me of those old, corny James Bond movies where Bond escapes because the bad guy wants to be too fancy with the way he wants to kill Bond).  But everything else works very well, and it was all done on a low budget, which makes this movie more deserving of praise.

— M

Grade A

Manny’s Movie Musings: “Jawbone” is about a homeless, alcoholic ex-boxer (played by Johnny Harris, who also wrote the script) who seeks to get his life in order with the help of two friends (played by Ray Winstone and Michael Smiley) who run a boxing gym that Harris is secretly crashing in every night.  Out of cash and without a job, Harris seeks an underground, boxing match with a younger, stronger fighter.  A creepy gangster played by Ian McShane sets up the fight, and Harris will have to struggle with and suppress all his demons so that he can be in the best shape possible and give the crowd their money’s worth…and come out of the fight alive.  “Jawbone” is a raw, dark (literally and figuratively) story of one man’s battle against his own, self-destructive nature.  My most memorable, movie moment is the scene when Harris holds a bottle of liquor, staring at it, contemplating whether to drink it or not.  Harris’ eyes, his facial expressions…all show the torment in his soul fighting against his addiction.

— M

Grade C

A psychologist (played by Naomi Watts) caring for her catatonic teen, son (Charlie Heaton) who needs 24 hour care faces a snowstorm that can leave them cut off from the rest of the town for a few days.  That wouldn’t be so bad; but there is the possibility of a dead boy haunting Watts.  A boy whom she was treating for anger issues; a boy who may blame Watts for being sent away; a boy who may not have died.  As the storm approaches, Watts’ supernatural experiences become more terrifying (to the character, not so much to the audience).  Is she being tormented by the boy’s angry spirit, or is the boy still alive?  Or is Watts’ guilt over how she handled the boy’s case and how she treated Heaton prior to his accident finally overwhelmed her mind, causing her to lose her sanity a little at a time?

My most memorable, movie moment is the scene when Watts’ friend sees through the computer camera something that reveals what is really going on.

“Shut In” gets a low grade because the main character makes one stupid decision after another throughout most of the movie.  An example: she wants to get out of the house, but the doors and windows are nailed shut.  The windows are flimsy, so what would you do?  For Watts, instead of breaking a  window, she panics and runs around and decides to break a skylight.  If she’s not concerned with making all kinds of noise by breaking a skylight, why not just break one of the ground floor windows and get out in less than five seconds?

“Shut In” would have received a much, much lower grade had it not been for the twist in the third act.  I have to admit, the movie suckered me into thinking one way, and I was pleasantly surprised to find my thinking was erroneous.

My last criticisms of this movie are these: there were too many similarities to “The Shining” during the third act — if you watch this movie and have seen “The Shining,” you’ll see; and the creepiness factor of the bathroom scene (you’ll know which one) is so high it’ll make every woman cringe, unless you’re really, really kinky.

— M

Grade C –

Riding on the coattails of “The Conjuring” and cashing in on that horror movie, “Annabelle” succeeds when it comes to making money, but falls on its face as a horror movie.  But I’m getting ahead of myself…let’s start with the story.  A man buys a super creepy doll for his pregnant wife — she collects dolls, even ugly, creepy ones that would give Charles Manson nightmares — and then they get attacked by cultists.  A female cultist named Annabelle is killed by the police, and her body is found cradling the creepy doll.  Does the couple move out?  Nope.  Do they get rid of the doll that was cradled by the serial killer woman during her final moments?  Nope.  Do creepy, evil things start to happen soon after that?  Yup!

The clueless couple eventually accept that they are being haunted, and after befriending a woman (played by Alfre Woodard) who has some experience with the supernatural, they figure out what is haunting them, and why.  How to stop the powerful, malevolent force…well, that’s not so easy.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Annabelle” is the scene when Annabelle levitates, and the evil force that is making her rise is shown.

“Annabelle” is told with a leisurely pace — many would call it boring and slow, but I didn’t mind it too much because it revealed much of the mindset of the female half of the couple, and that mindset is crucial to the finale.  What I did have a problem with is that the scares were too few and far between; and the Woodard character did something at the end which I found to be out of character.  Although there was a scene in the second act that was supposed to set up what Woodard did at the end, it still made no sense after I analyzed Woodard’s words and actions.  It just completely took me out of the movie and my mind was screaming “Shenanigans!”

— M

 

 

Grade A

Based on the true story of Oscar Grant (played by Michael B. Jordan), a man who was shot by a policeman while he was handcuffed and lying face down.

“Fruitvale Station” dramatizes the 24 hours leading up to the shooting, showing us two sides of Jordan: the hot tempered, ex-convict; and the loving father, boyfriend, and son who is trying hard to live a regular life and not go back to drug dealing which could land him in prison again.  The inner struggle of Jordan is easily conveyed to the audience, thanks to the exceptional talents of actor Michael B. Jordan, whose expressive eyes easily give away his inner thoughts and feelings.  Jordan’s lightning fast temper is also a frightening thing to behold, giving the audience a clue of one reason why things went bad so fast.

My most memorable, movie moment is the actual cell phone video of the seconds leading up to the shooting, shown at the beginning of the movie.

“Fruitvale Station” is a completely engrossing movie that gives the audience a glimpse of the injustice that young, black males sometimes suffer at the hands of certain police officers; and how a bad situation can quickly become deadly when two groups of hotheads get into an argument.

— M

Grade B+

“Shot Caller” is a tense, mostly terrifying story of a high ranking, prison gang member (played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) out on parole.  On orders from his boss to spearhead a major score of illegal guns, Waldau has no choice but to see it through.  To refuse would mean his execution, as well as his family’s.  Omari Hardwick plays a cop who is also Waldau’s parole officer.   Somehow, Hardwick is tipped off to the illegal guns; and he puts Waldau on surveillance, gleaning as much information as he can in order to prevent hundreds of fully automatic rifles going out into the streets. Two men on opposite sides of the law, and only one winner will emerge.

“Shot Caller” is told from two timelines: the present, and the past which reveals how Waldau became the ruthless gangster that he is.  It is the past timeline that is the most gripping, showing us a drastically different man who made a mistake that led to a devastating, downward spiral of his life.  But years in prison has not fully transformed Waldau…carefully hidden deep within the monster, there is a bit of humanity left.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Shot Caller” is the scene when Waldau butchers a fellow gangster in the man’s home.  No fancy choreography, just someone getting stabbed multiple times until his life ends.

“Shot Caller” would have received a higher grade but for the shenanigans near the end of the movie.  **SPOILER ALERT**Waldau hides a weapon in his anus, and from the time he is captured to the time he is sent back to his old prison, the weapon is still there?  No law enforcement personnel ever looked up his butt to see if there were anything hidden there?  Also, when Waldau attacked his boss because Waldau’s family were threatened with execution, how does Waldau know that the hit wasn’t already in place?  These are big shenanigans, but the rest of the movie is so good that they didn’t damage the movie much.  For those who enjoy a good drama/suspense/prison movie, this one is definitely for you.

— M

 

 

 

Grade D

Manny’s Movie Musings: “The Expendables” is awesome; “The Expendables 3” is awesomely bad.   There are too many characters that are undeveloped, and so we don’t care about most of them (the original members are sort of safe, as fans already have an attachment to them); the editing seems like it was done by a film student; it’s rated PG-13 (so we get that corny, 1990s style James Bond violence); the action sequences are incoherent and so over the top that they can’t be taken seriously, and therefore the audience has no emotional connection to them because you get the feeling that no Expendable will be killed off; and many characters doing things that make no sense.  Oh, there is somewhat of a story here: The Expendables are hired to capture an arms dealer, things go bad, and many characters say lots of bad inside jokes that puts this movie into the comedy genre.  Lots of wasted money and talent, and lots of disappointed 1980s/1990s action movie fans like me.  My most memorable, movie moment of “The Expendables 3” is the scene when Mel Gibson (playing the lead bad guy) explains to Sylvester Stallone why Gibson became the way he is.  It’s the only well acted scene that gave this movie any real depth.

— M

Grade A

From the talented and eccentric mind of Quentin Tarantino, “Django Unchained” is a violent, surreal story of an ex-slave (Jamie Foxx) teaming up with an extremely well-spoken bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) to get back the wife of Foxx who was sold to a barbaric slave owner (Leonardo DiCaprio).   This being a Tarantino movie, going from point A to point B is done in an unconventional way which makes it hard for the audience to guess exactly what happens to the main characters (this is a good thing).  Along the journey, we are treated to Tarantino’s style of writing and directing: mimicking some camera movements of the 1970s; copying the look of the film stock of the 1970s; and the rich, expansive, mostly witty  dialogue.

Although Waltz and Foxx are the main characters, it is the relationship between DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson (DiCaprio’s head slave) that is the most interesting.  The roles of master and slave seem to switch back and forth at various times, and I believe many viewers will be very puzzled by this; but it’s really simple — the DiCaprio and Jackson characters go way back, and the decades spent living together obviously led to a mutual respect, trust and love for each other.  They have essentially become father and son.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Django Unchained” is the scene when Foxx is hanging upside down, completely helpless; and one of the bad guys is about to castrate Foxx using a red hot knife!

Tarantino fans won’t be disappointed with this movie, as it has everything you’d expect from a movie written/directed by him.  Although part satire, and therefore cannot be completely taken seriously overall, the movie’s depictions of punishments of slaves are very disturbing; and disturbing people is something Tarantino doesn’t shy away from.

— M

 

Grade B

Set in 1973, a “monster hunter” played by John Goodman scams the U.S. Government into funding an expedition into an island to supposedly look for valuable resources; but what Goodman really seeks is validation into his theory that monsters live within the earth, and at some point they will all come out and eat us like chicken nuggets.  With a tracker (played by Tom Hiddleston) by his side and a unit of the Army’s Assault Helicopter Company led by Samuel L. Jackson as an escort, Goodman and his fellow scientists begin their exploration of the island in a violent way…and they are all met with violence by the island’s largest and most fearsome monster, King Kong.

Their helicopters destroyed, the human survivors have a small chance of escaping the island and getting back to their ship.  But Kong and the island monsters aren’t the only ones the humans must fear.  Jackson, in his quest to avenge his men who were killed by Kong, turns into Capt. Ahab and risks everything and everyone to exact his pound of gorilla flesh.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Kong: Skull Island” is the scene when King Kong fights the big, underground lizard thing.   King monster against king monster; and a monsterfest is what this movie is all about.

“Kong: Skull Island” suffers from numerous shenanigans, such as Vietnam veteran helicopter pilots staying too close to Kong, with the result of being swatted and crushed by the giant ape.   Then there’s Hiddleston’s character who never loses his cool no matter how many giant, ugly creatures are trying to eat him — I’ve seen people show more emotion while playing video games.  Enough of the negatives.  What this movie has going for it are: 1) a fast paced, dynamic direction by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, giving this flick a tremendous amount of fun energy; and 2) monsters, monsters, and more monsters.  I’ve been a fan of Japanese monster movies from the 1950s/1960s…they are silly, and generally make no sense; but they are fun to watch.  Well, “Kong: Skull Island” is like that.

— M

Grade B-

From Nicholas Sparks’ second novel, “A Walk To Remember” pairs Mandy Moore and Shane West as high school teens at opposite ends of everything.   Moore plays a bible carrying sweetheart who is basically a saint with an amazing singing voice, while West plays a jackass who is part of the cool crowd.  Neither of them has much in common, but a prank pulled by West causes an accident that forces West to do community service.  One such service is to take part in a school play…playing the lead.   Huh, what?  West has no interest in playing lead, nor does he have any experience in acting; but the drama teacher gives him the male lead anyway because…well, because the screenwriter and director want West and Moore to have a reason to spend lots of time together, and they couldn’t be bothered with writing a more plausible reason, so we just have to accept that shenanigan.

So anyway…Moore/West have to study their lines together and guess what?  West starts to like Moore, despite her being all goody goody and wearing weird clothes and the same sweater…well, to be fair, Moore is beautiful and is such a nice person and honest and intelligent — traits that West is hard pressed to find in his cool group.   Moore’s portrayal of her character is absolutely on the money, very believable and extremely likeable; and it is Moore who saves this movie from being a cheese fest and catapults it to an entertaining, heartwarming rom/com/drama.

Enough of me gushing over Moore’s performance.   West/Moore’s romance of course hits the obvious bumps: the cool kids hate her; the father hates West; West feels alienated by his cool friends, etc.  But the biggest bump is when Moore reveals her secret to West.  This revelation is my most memorable, movie moment, which I will not spoil; but fans of Sparks will probably guess the secret.

For the average moviegoer, “A Walk To Remember” will be a bit too corny and syrupy for their tastes; but for rom/com/drama fans, this is one of the better ones, and Mandy Moore’s performance has almost everything to do with it.

— M

Grade B

Part 3 of “The Hobbit” trilogy shows the fate of the dragon Smaug, Bilbo Baggins (played by Martin Freeman), dwarf king Thorin and his band of dwarf followers, the “lonely mountain” and the enormous treasure hidden within it, and the five armies that will do battle for the mountain fortress and its riches.   But more things are unexplained.  Perhaps in the extended cuts more will be revealed; but it’s still inexcusable for a theatrical cut to omit so many answers to so many questions.

Multiple storylines play out in rapid fire sequence — this movie has probably the shortest running time of all six “Hobbit” and “LOTR” movies — resulting in a very fast paced movie that sometimes feel a bit rushed.   Of course, the usual shenanigans are here: characters that defy the laws of physics — or maybe physics are different in Middle Earth — and able to take a great amount of battle damage without being truly harmed.  Hey, if a character is fairly invincible, it kind of takes away the element of suspense that he or she may be killed.  Granted, a few of the characters get killed after killing millions of the enemy, but at this point it becomes a bit silly and the impact of those deaths are greeted with a shrug and another bite of the hotdog.

Now, my most memorable movie moment of “The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies”: the scene when Thorin (played by Richard Armitage, who looks a lot like Mel Gibson’s Braveheart in his dwarf look) has an internal struggle, realizing what his greed has done to him and the choice he has to make if he doesn’t want to follow the dreadful path his ancestors took.

Although full of problems that would be deserving of a much lesser grade, “…The Five Armies” was still an enjoyable, entertaining feast for my eyes.  Although I wonder if my forgiving nature is the result of having watched this movie for free (thanks, Library!).

— M

Grade B –

Manny’s Movie Musings: “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” has a young, Bilbo (Martin Freeman) reluctantly going off on a great adventure with Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and a bunch of dwarves to reclaim the home and treasure of said dwarves.  The problems: a giant, bodybuilder orc is after the leader of the dwarves, and he isn’t alone; the trek is a long way off and filled with enemies big and small; and the dwarves’ home/treasure are guarded by a dragon that can incinerate armies.  My most memorable, movie moment of this first part of the trilogy: the riddle challenge scene between Bilbo and Gollum.  “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” unexpectedly did not live up to the standards “The Lord Of The Rings” trilogy had established.  The music is good, the special effects are amazing, the scenery is incredible…but the characters are…eh.  Freeman, McKellen…no problems there.  But the majority of the dwarves are forgettable and irritating.  Except for the king dwarf and the old dude dwarf, they were filthy and disgusting creatures, like teeny Klingons.  I really didn’t give a damn whether they lived or died or got their home and treasure back.  To make things worse, most of the dwarves were introduced so fast it’s hard to tell many of them apart, and virtually no time was given to get to know most of them.  If it wasn’t for Freeman and McKellen being part of the group, I would’ve rooted for the dragon to incinerate them all.

— M

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