Friday, October 20, 2017

Thank You For Your Service - Screening Offer for US Veterans/Active Military

Dear Readers,

Unversal Pictures and AMC Theaters announces free tickets available for US Veterans and Active Military to see THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE on Thursday, October 26, at 7 p.m. at participating AMC theaters.  The first 25 service members to request a ticket, at participating theater, will be given one free admission ticket.  To see if there is a participating theater near you, visit  THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE is in theaters October 27.

P.S.   And to those who have served, are currently serving, or are the mother, father, brother, sister, husband, wife, daughter, son, other relative of an active duty soldier or veteran...Thank you for your service. 

The Snowman (R/1hr. 59 min.)

Warning!  For those of you who watched the trailer and, like me, thought this was a horror movie, it’s not.  It’s a thriller.  A sometimes-gross thriller, but a thriller nonetheless.  And I liked it.  But only just.  I think the fact that I didn’t have to hide behind my hands through any of it kicked it up a notch or two on the appreciation scale for me. 

The Snowman is about several things all at once.  A child is wronged, women are disappearing left and right, a cop is drunk but seeking redemption, a teenager is seeking a father figure, another cop is seeking revenge, and someone is building creepy snowmen all over Norway.  And in the middle of all that, you get to try to figure out who done it.  I guessed and was right but only after second guesses and questioning my guesses.  You get the point.

There were several things I really liked about this movie.  Michael Fassbender, the scenery, Michael Fassbender, the basic story, though they did walk all over it in spots, Michael Fassbender…  There were also several things I didn’t like.  One of which was the poor editing and the fact that, once again, things happened in the trailer that you will not see in the film.  Who makes these decisions, anyway?  Why would you include enticing scenes in the trailer but leave them on the cutting room floor when you completed the film?  It’s highly frustrating.

Because I might have mentioned him a time or two in this review, let’s take a moment to discuss Michael Fassbender.  As always, he is not hard on the eyes.  And because his character is down on his luck, he’s even more endearing.  Even when he’s a cranky drunk.  Don’t judge me.  I have a feeling there are several ladies out there who would agree.  His character name, though.  Harry Hole?  Why???  Despite his gruff exterior, I like Harry.  Especially as the story progresses.  Harry’s life isn’t exactly where he wants it to be but at least we see him trying to make changes and not wallowing in his desperation.  There’s a lesson to be learned there.   One thing I didn’t like about his character is we never did figure out why he was a drunk.  Or, if we did, I completely missed it.  This movie jumped around so much to give extraneous detail that you’d think his backstory would be included.  Nope.

Rebecca Ferguson is Katrine Bratt.  You pretty much know she’s not quite on the up and up when you first meet her.  I did, anyway.  I liked her but she still seemed…off.  Rebecca did a good job of making Katrine seem haunted, for lack of a better word.  Where Harry’s story was lacking, Katrine’s was included, in a roundabout way.  I truly TRULY did not like the editing on this film.  And, as someone who is okay with a little romance in her thrillers, I was really hoping for a bit of something between Katrine and Harry?  Did it happen?  I’m not telling. 

Val Kilmer was not a major character but I wanted to warn you a bit about him.  He “plays” Detective Rafto.  I was a huge Val Kilmer fan growing up so it was highly disappointing to see him in this role.  I haven’t kept up on any recent news about the actor, himself, so I found myself questioning what on earth was going on with him in the film.  I don’t mean this to sound cruel but I couldn’t figure out why his mouth moved the way it did and why it was a tad foamy.  I kept waiting for some kind of explanation for a malady of some sort other than the fact that he and Michael are both cast as drunks in this film.  It never happened.  So, I decided to do a little research and discovered that he, the actor not the character, has been dealing with Cancer.  Well, okay then.  I do understand that it’s frowned upon for companies to let go of employees when they develop life-threatening diseases but if you’re going to cast someone who develops the kind of health issue that Mr. Kilmer is struggling with, I think it would have been smarter to go with someone else or for him to have stepped down.  It was incredibly obvious that they used someone else’s voice for the very few lines he was given and when the camera moved behind him or didn’t show him at all when he spoke, of course the audience is going to question it and it’s going to pull us completely out of the scene and take us a while to get back in again.  It was a big distraction.  If they were going to insist on using Mr. Kilmer, I believe the editors should have done a much better job than they did.   When people go to see a movie, they’re not there to see an actor, per se, but to see how good the actor portrays their current character.  Detective Rafto was not represented as effectively as he should have been and the movie was the worse for it.  I respect their loyalty to the actor but…

Finally, as far as the cast is concerned, I wanted to mention J.K. Simmons.  I don’t like him as a creep.  Not one little bit.

The Snowman earned its R-rating through violence alone.  There was brief nudity as well but the violence, some of which is quick and gives you absolutely no chance to prepare for it, was the kicker.  It’s not something I’d want to see on a regular basis and is definitely not anything I’d want a child to watch.  Talk about nightmares!!!

I’ve decided I need to read the book to see if certain characters really did get so much more play than others.  And a couple of scenes seemed as if they were added as filler because the director couldn’t think of a better way to explain what was going on.  There was nothing smooth about this film but I didn’t feel it was the total disaster that other reviewers apparently did.  I have no desire to watch it again but it was a nice reprieve from the other movies I’ve been watching during “Scary Movie Month” at my house. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

The Mummy (Rated R/110 Min.)

I made the mistake of reading several other reviews of this movie after I’d started my own.  I haven’t read one review yet in which the critic liked it.  Good thing I tend to disagree with a lot of the critics.  I liked it and will, more than likely, watch it again.    

The Mummy begins several thousand years ago and tells of a princess who was raised to rule and then is set aside when her little brother is born. Needless to say, she’s less than happy about the situation.  Add to that a bit of dark magic, a sarcophagus and a millennia or two; just for good measure.  This is not the kind of woman you want to wake up.  But!  Wake her, they did. 

If you’re going to this movie with any other films in mind besides the one you’re seeing, you’re going with the wrong frame of mind.  If you’re going to compare this to past Mummy movies, you’re probably not going to like it.  So…don’t.  Stop being a movie snob, enjoy it at face value and leave the other monsters at home. 

My only major complaint about The Mummy is that the director couldn’t seem to decide how to portray Tom Cruise’s character.  Is he a self-serving, womanizing, moronic thief or is he the selfless hero?  I guess the answer is, a little of both.  As Tom Cruise’s number one non-fan, I scoffed at some of the things he did at the beginning but I actually began to warm up to him and finally liked him at the end.  For the most part.  My only minor complaint is that I really wanted to see how the mummy saw things with her double iris/pupil eyes.  If you’re going to make a big deal out of this, play it up all the way.

Though I truly did like this movie…a lot…the acting isn’t much to write home about.  I think this was meant to be an action film and that most of the budget was spent on the special effects and action sequences.  And I was okay with that.  I’m a firm believer that if you’re going to make an action film, make an action film.  Make any long speeches the “chicks dig scars” kind of speech.  Leave the Gipper out of this and go blow crap up.

There is a reason that this film is rated PG-13.  Actually, there are several.  There’s nudity.  There’s a bit of cussing.  There’s violence.  There’s people being turned in to zombies.  There’s murder and mayhem.  Just not enough for an R rating. 

If you like Tom Cruise, go see this movie.  If you like evil, she-mummies, go see this movie.  If you want a good action-y/low talk-y talk experience, go see this movie.  If you’re just trying to decide what you should see, this weekend, go see this movie.  But, if you do, don’t bother staying through the credits. There’s nothing there.  Just a blank screen.  What a missed opportunity.

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Fate of the Furious (PG-13/2 hrs. 16 min.)

If you’ve seen the trailers for The Fate of the Furious, you know that a very important character has gone to the dark side.  If you haven’t seen any of the trailers, well, now you’re caught up AND you have the added benefit of being able to enjoy the action scenes for the first time on the big screen. 

A lot of you are probably wondering why Dom went rogue.  How could he possibly betray Letty and the rest of his team?  Why would he do that?  Why, Dom.  Whyyyyyy???  Well, I’m not telling.  I’m not even hinting because it is not a spoiler anyone will thank me for sharing.

For those of you who have been faithful to the FATF franchise, I’m pretty confident in saying that you’re going to like this one.  For those of you who haven’t seen any of these movies, first of all, why not?  Second, do not, I repeat, do NOT start with this one.  You need the background, you’ll be lost during a few scenes and I don’t think your friends should have to explain what just happened.

If you haven’t seen the other movies but go to see this one anyway, I’m warning you now; leave reality at home.  This is over-the-top, could only happen in the movies kind of action.  But, oh my gosh, is it fun!!!  My only complaint about the Hollywood-ness of it all is the Dwayne Johnson prison fight scene.  I find it hard to believe he would do what he did to the guards and be okay with it.  There.  That’s the extent of the spoilers. 

There’s really no point in discussing the actors in this movie.  You know them.  You love them.  You’ve always secretly known that you’d probably be the best besties ever.  No?  Just me?  Okay.  I liked each of the main characters.  Even the ones you’re not supposed to like.  I didn’t like who they were in the movie but I liked how good they were at being bad. 

And the action scenes!  You already know what to expect and you will not be disappointed.  I wish I could tell you my favorite scene but I can’t for obvious reasons.  Just know it’s super cool and super cute at the same time. 
I do realize that this is a very minimal review but I did find it really difficult to not give too much away.  If you like the other FATF movies, go see The Fate of the Furious.  If you don’t like them, you should still see them all.  What else could you possibly have to do on what looks like it’s going to be a decent Spring weekend?  Oh!  And there’s

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.