Friday, February 17, 2017

The Great Wall (PG-13/1h 43min)


 
I must see this movie again!  And again and again!  I went to “The Great Wall”, last night and enjoyed every minute of it.  You must know, right away, that this is not, I repeat NOT, your typical war movie.  I must have only seen one of the shorter trailers, and even then, I didn’t pay too much attention because I hate that trailers ruin movies.  Anyway, this…is a monster movie.  Surprise to me!  Even though I was expecting a regular war movie, I was just as thrilled with what this turned out to be.  You see, I love a good monster movie, too. 

“The Great Wall” is Independence Day meets Mulan meets Cirque du Soleil meets The Last Samurai meets Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (the battle scene with all the super beautiful/hot elves; you know the one) meets who-knows-how-many-other movies. 

It’s about a couple of mercenaries seeking black powder to take home with them, who end up getting stuck in the middle of a centuries old conflict.  You know, just an every day occurrence in the life of a mercenary. 

There is not a lot of down time in this movie.  It starts out action-y and doesn’t let up much.  Even the dining hall scene had to show some bravado.  This is, by no means, a complaint.  Mainly because it’s not edge of your seat action through the entire movie.  I will admit that someone nearly got his fingers broken during the battle scenes.  Sometimes I think it might be safer for my friends/family if I watch intense movies by myself.   

The first battle scene nearly had me come undone.  The costumes, the props, the set in general.  My breath was taken away and I came dangerously close to loudly expressing my awe.  Not at the same time.  The costumes.  Wow!  I want to be in that designer’s head.  It must be an awe-inspiring place.  From head to toe, each soldier was a sight to behold.  And the colors!  This is not your typical blandly-clothed army you see in a lot of battle movies. 

Then there were the props, for lack of a better word.  If this Wall wasn’t amply defended, it certainly wasn’t due to a lacking in weaponry.  They seem to have thought of everything.  Sure, there were your basic bows and spears.  But then there were your catapults (remember, not much is plain old, plain old in this movie) shooting fire balls and spiky fire balls, your giant scissors (you’ll have to see it to understand), your special arrows (small but effective), and finally, there were the soldiers themselves. 

Let’s talk about those soldiers for a while.  If, in your mind, you picture the stereotypical, in the Western world, Chinese person (my apologies, in advance), you might be imagining men who are small in stature and not terribly muscular.  I think we saw maybe one or two instances of this.  The rest?  Not so much.  These men were huge in stature and commanding in presence.  And weren’t too difficult to look at, either.  These were men who are meant to intimidate their foes. Oh.  Wait.  Did I only mention the men?  If you’re thinking this is a testosterone tour de force, you are so wonderfully wrong.  The women were also a force to be reckoned with and, in my opinion, were much braver than most of the men while still coming across as feminine.  I can’t even begin to explain how this works.  You’ll have to see it for yourself.  It was the women, and what they did, that took my breath away during the battle scene.  I can’t get it out of my head. 

I have no idea where the first part of the movie was filmed but I must go there.  With a camera and several days in which I can take as many pics as I desire.  I never in a million years thought I’d ever describe a bunch of hills as lovely but they very much are.  Then we see the Wall.  It just has to be capitalized.  There’s no other way around it.  From the first moment we saw it, to the fog-shrouded scenes, to the final glimpse, it was nothing short of amazing.  I know I sound like I’m over-talking this movie but I was just that impressed with all the visual aspects of it.  And then they added the main actors.

Let’s start with the obvious.  Matt Damon.  While this seems to be a huge change from his last few roles, I still liked him as William, a mercenary searching for black powder.  But, even though I am a huge Matt Damon fan, I feel that this role could have been played by any number of actors.  Now, that’s just an opinion.  It doesn’t necessarily mean I’m right.  I just felt that he could’ve been so much more.  And that, in a manner of speaking, he was very nearly robbed! 

Actress Tian Jing came very close to overshadowing Matt during several scenes.  She plays Lin Mae, one of the commanders in the Chinese army.  You’ll quickly see that none of the commanders in this film just…well…command.  They head into the fray along with every other soldier out there.  Lin Mae is no exception.  She is incredibly brave and intelligent.  She expects no more of her soldiers than she is willing to give, herself.  And she believes that trust and loyalty are two of the greatest traits you could possibly have.  I like her.  I like her a lot. 

There were several other actors that probably deserve a small mention, at least, but I’m happy with the two I’ve already discussed.  Okay, okay.  I’ll mention a few more.  I didn’t like Willem Dafoe’s character.  At all.  Pedro Pascal is Tovar, the other mercenary.  He was okay.  I didn’t like some of his choices.  Finally, Lu Han is Peng Yong, a noble, if somewhat clumsy foot soldier.  I liked him a lot.  You will too. 

There is only one reason “The Great Wall” received a PG-13 rating.  The violence.  Fortunately, most of the gross has to do with the monsters so it’s a little easier to take.  Judging by the upset children at this showing, I wouldn’t recommend it for youngsters unless you’ve seen it first, yourself, and feel they can handle it.  The 20 to 30 minutes of crying was more than a little frustrating.  Apparently, that parent felt that it was all right to let everyone else enjoy their upset little one. 

I would highly recommend this movie.  As mentioned at the beginning, I will see this again.  If you can’t handle violence, monsters, or monster blood, I’d skip this one.  The rest of you should go see it.  This weekend.  Or tonight even! Just remember that it might not be safe to hold hands with your girlfriend during this one.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Split (PG-13/1hr 57 min)


 
He’s done it again!  M. Night Shyamalan has made another movie that made me question my way of thinking.  More to the point, he completely swayed my way of thinking, during the film.  And I didn’t much appreciate it. Now, don’t read that as the movie wasn’t any good because it most certainly was.  It’s just that M. Night knows how to get inside your head and hang on. 

Split is the story of Kevin; a man whose life did not have a great beginning and has developed multiple personalities to protect himself.  Not on purpose, but still.  And not just a few personalities.  23, with a 24th on its way.  His mind definitely should’ve stopped at 23.

James McAvoy plays Kevin and to say he did a good job is putting it mildly.  He became each of the personalities to such an extent that, by the end of the film, you could tell which he was just by looking at him.  In one instance he changes to several different personalities in a matter of seconds and makes it look like it’s the most natural thing in the world, to him.  You could see him go from personality to personality without him saying a word.  It was amazing…and a bit creepy.  The creepiest of all was the new personality.  Of course, the buildup of the entire film was for this latest addition but I really could’ve done without him.  I didn’t like him at all – you’re not supposed to – and a couple of things he did seemed to take away from the movie, for me, but he was certainly worthy of all the talk.  Yikes!  Except for the times the genius behind me kicked the back of my seat, I lost myself in this movie and James was a big reason for that.  His characters draw you in and leave you wishing you could get away.  Fortunately, for my future viewing experience, he didn’t creep me out so badly that I won’t be able to watch him in anything else without automatically disliking him.  That makes sense in my head, anyway.

Betty Buckley is Dr. Fletcher, Kevin’s psychiatrist.  I spent most of the movie scared for her.  I just knew something horrible was going to happen each time she met with “Kevin”.  I’ve got to say, though, that was a brave, brave woman!  Granted, it’s easy to be brave in a movie.  It’s not real.  But, you forget that while it’s happening and you just really wish that she kept some big, brawny dude with her for protection.  Or carried a gun.  Or had a ginormous, sharp-toothed, overprotective dog.  Anything than just her calm understanding to see her through.  She was a champion for people with multiple-personality disorders and seemed truly invested in Kevin.  I genuinely liked her.

Even though there were a few more actors in Split, I’m going to wrap up the character reviews with Anya Taylor-Joy.  She, like the other two mentioned above, made me forget that she was an actress playing a role.  She became Casey Cooke, a young woman with a traumatic, to say the least, upbringing who is coping the best she can.  She’s smart and resourceful and doesn’t really freak out.  I could have done without the other two girls in the film but they were necessary so what’re you gonna do?

This film is rated PG-13 and that kind of bothers me.  I don’t much care for the fact that the people who come up with the ratings think that this would be okay for impressionable young teenagers.  Yes, I know that the ones who really want to see this movie would find a way to see if even if it was rated R but I hate that it’s made that accessible to them.  I get that some of you may think I’m a bit off in that assessment but I still believe that teenagers are still developing mentally and things like this could affect them.  I have a relative who sometimes gets so immersed in a movie that it takes him a while to come back to reality once the movie has ended.  While that means great things for the movie, it’s not always a great thing for the person.  I hope that makes sense.  Following is why I think it should have gotten stronger rating.  My apologies for not paying attention to the cussing the way I usually do.  I got so wrapped up in the film that I forgot to keep tally.  I really don’t think there was much, though.

Sex/Nudity – Nope.  There was no sex whatsoever and the most skin we see is when two of the girls have to strip down to their unders.

Drinking/Drugs – Nope.

Violence – Yup.  It’s limited to mostly the end but it’s there.  Please note, here, that M. Night has done such a thorough job of messing with your head and pulled you so far in to the film that this affects your inner fears and drags you along for the ride.  Okay, so maybe that’s just me and you won’t feel it that strongly but I sure did.

I don’t know how to describe the next category without cussing so I’ll just say that this movie definitely messes with your mind.  M. Night is the master of “thank goodness this horrible thing happened so that something good could happen later”.  I’m trying so hard not to spoil this movie for you but I will say that at one point you’ll be glad that something did happen earlier in the movie.  And then you’ll be driving to work, the next day, and it will dawn on you that M. Night is such a good story-teller that he actually made you happy about earlier atrocities.  You’ll realize that he made you feel actual relief about that trauma; that it was a good thing that it had happened and you were so glad for it.  I wasn’t liking him very much at that moment. 

If you like M. Night Shyamalan films, this one should not disappoint.  If you like thrillers, this one should not disappoint.  The only people I wouldn’t recommend this to are young teenagers, children, my mom, and anyone else who can’t stomach thrillers/horror.  I will see this again.  And, by the way, I cannot even begin to tell you if there are any “tricks” in this film, i.e. the red items in Sixth Sense, because I am apparently not smart enough for M. Night movies.  I’ll just read about them later.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Sing Saturday!!!



What are you planning to do after the food fest of Thanksgiving Day and the craziness that is Black Friday?  Sleep in, you say?  Forget sleep.  That's what Sunday afternoons are for. Here's an even better option for your Saturday morning, y'all!  Universal Pictures is having its biggest advance-screening to date and you have the opportunity to take part in it. At 10:00 on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, get comfy at your local theater (AMC Quail Springs 24 and AMC Crossroads Mall 16 if you happen to live in the OKC area) and enjoy what is sure to be a really REALLY great movie.  Why do I think it will be really REALLY great?  If you know me, you already know the answer to that question.  It involves music.  That's right, folks, more than 65 songs crammed in to one movie featuring a shy teenaged elephant, a sad little porcupine, a harried mother of 25, a bad gorilla who wants to be good, a teensy mouse who wants to make it big, and the producer who is going to help make their dreams come true.  How can you pass this up?  Remember...it's FREE!!!  There's got to be a catch, right?  Of a sort. It's first come, first served.  Yup.  People are going to be hopping out of bed a little earlier than planned so that they can get to the theaters before anyone else.  This movie doesn't come out until Christmas, so not only will you get to see it for free, you'll get to see it a month before most of the country.  You'll get to be THAT person.  "What? Sing!?  Oh yes, I saw it a month ago and it was FABULOUS!!!"  Or you can use your own words.  Speaking of words, let's get past mine and hear from the Universal peeps themselves.  Followed by a look at the official trailer, of course.



Illumination has captivated audiences all over the world with the beloved hits Despicable Me, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, Despicable Me 2 and Minions, now the second-highest-grossing animated movie in history.  Following the release of this summer’s comedy blockbuster The Secret Life of Pets, Illumination presents Sing this holiday season.  

 

With its highly relatable characters, heart and humor, the first collaboration between writer/director Garth Jennings (Son of Rambow, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) and Illumination founder and CEO Chris Meledandri marks the sixth fully animated feature from the studio.

 

The event film stars Academy Award® winners Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon, alongside Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly, Taron Egerton and Grammy Award-nominated Tori Kelly.

 

Set in a world like ours but entirely inhabited by animals, Sing stars Buster Moon (McConaughey), a dapper koala who presides over a once-grand theater that has fallen on hard times.  Buster is an eternal—some might even say delusional—optimist who loves his theater above all and will do anything to preserve it.  Now faced with the crumbling of his life’s ambition, he has one final chance to restore his fading jewel to its former glory by producing the world’s greatest singing competition.

 

Five lead contestants emerge: Mike (MacFarlane), a mouse who croons as smoothly as he cons; Meena (Kelly), a timid teenage elephant with an enormous case of stage fright; Rosita (Witherspoon), an overtaxed mother run ragged tending a litter of 25 piglets; Johnny (Egerton), a young gangster gorilla looking to break free of his family’s felonies; and Ash (Johansson), a punk-rock porcupine struggling to shed her arrogant boyfriend and go solo.

 

Each arrives under Buster’s marquee believing that this is their shot to change the course of their life.  And as Buster coaches each of his contestants closer and closer to the grand finale, he starts to learn that maybe the theater isn’t the only thing that is in need of saving.

 

Featuring more than 65 hit songs, Sing is produced by Meledandri and his longtime collaborator Janet Healy.  Together, they have produced all of Illumination’s films since the studio’s inception.  Released by Universal Pictures, Sing arrives in theaters on December 21, 2016. www.singmovie.com





 

Doesn't that sound fun?  So, enjoy your food and shopping then relax with some lovable and talented characters who just want to...SING!



To find out where the advance screening is showing near you, go to www.singsaturday.com.