Tag Archives: film

‘Fist Fight’ as Much Fun as a Punch to the Head

Fist_FightMy friend made a good point while we were watching this: who says “fist fight?” That’s not a thing that is organically said by normal humans.


“Fist Fight” stars Ice Cube and Charlie Day as teachers at a high school who plan on fighting each other after one of them gets fired on the last day of school. Christina Hendricks, Jillian Bell and Tracy Morgan also star as Richie Keen directs.


Comedies released outside of the summer season have a track record of being not very good. Whether it’s January (the “Ride Along” films, also starring Mr. Cube), April (last year’s “Keanu,” one of the least funny films I have seen in quite a while) or Christmas (“Daddy’s Home” and “Why Him?”), studios clearly like to keep their prime comedies for when kids are out of school and snow is off the roads. So it shouldn’t be a big surprise that “Fist Fight,” despite all the talent involved, is a lazy mess that has less laughs than an episode of “It’s Always Sunny” but lasts three times as long.


Charlie Day is typecast at this point as shrieking and hyperactive but to his credit he is a little toned-down here. He still has his panic attacks but they’re far, few and in between, and he manages to get a few chuckles when they do spring up. As I’ve written in both my “Ride Along” reviews I find something oddly hilarious about Ice Cube growling, so the first time he showed up on screen here I couldn’t help but laugh. However he isn’t given too much to do after the opening scene, and he and Day have almost no chemistry together.


One could argue that they’re advisories so naturally they wouldn’t have chemistry, but if you look at any (successful) James Bond or Avengers film even the hero and the villain have some sort of back-and-forth and screen presence; here the two are mainly just reciting lines (or doing very awkward improv) to each other.


And while we’re on the subject of these characters, they obviously imply that Day is supposed to be our main character and protagonist–they even give him a pregnant wife and young daughter so we know he’s relatable!–but he is so slimy and unlikable that you find yourself rooting for Ice Cube’s cookie-cutter strict teacher to beat him in the fight (oh, and his character’s name is Mr. Strickland, in case you wanted your head to be sore from being beaten over the head with analogies).


There are a few fleeting bright spots sprinkled throughout “Fist Fight” but most of the time you actually feel guilty about laughing at them. Day’s pre-teen daughter (Alexa Nisenson) is by-and-far the best part of the film for reasons I won’t spoil, but not only is she a kid actor who isn’t awful she actually left me wanting to see more from this young actress. The titular fight sequence is also entertaining in a ludicrous, random sort of way, but by that point in the film you’ve almost forgotten about the showdown altogether and just want to go home.


“Fist Fight” is the sort of film mistakes a penis joke or f-bomb in every other sentence as comedy, and thinks that letting actors improv nearly all their lines will inevitably lead to something funny. However that ruins the flow of the film and creates an unfunny experience that is about as entertaining as getting kicked between the legs.


Critics Rating: 3/10

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.

‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ Shoots Itself in the Foot

John_Wick_Chapter_TwoIt’s a lot to ask lighting to strike in the same bottle twice…


“John Wick: Chapter 2” is the sequel to the 2014 surprise-hit-turned-cult-classic “John Wick” and features Keanu Reeves returning to the titular role of a hitman who just can’t seem to stay retired. Common, Laurence Fishburne, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ruby Rose, John Leguizamo and Ian McShane all co-star as Chad Stahelski returns to direct.


I thoroughly enjoyed the first “John Wick,” so much in fact that it found itself on my Top 10 films of that year. It was a film that was well-framed and brilliantly-choreographed, and even if Keanu Reeves isn’t the best actor in the world he gave a performance that worked for the role. This sequel has glimpses of what made the first film so much fun, but falls victim to what plagues many follow-ups and that is a mixture of too much sameness and trying to one-up the original.


For a film where its rules have already been written and world already established, this takes a while to get moving. The first time around it was fascinating seeing how the underworld of assassins operated, with their own currency and guidelines for where and when they can “conduct business.” Here the first act is a lot of talking about debts and obligations, and if you haven’t seen the first film you will probably be lost about a lot of what’s being discussed. Last time things were simple: people stole John Wick’s car and killed his dog so he goes out for revenge; here, the motivation is less intriguing. In fact a gun isn’t even fired for the first 45 minutes of the film, which is a problem when the selling point of your movie is “come watch Keanu Reeves shoot people with a gun.”


Once the action does get going it’s fun for a while, and I felt a big smile spread across my face at Reeves getting headshot after headshot in the catacombs of Rome. However after about five minutes it becomes a bit mundane, much like putting a video game on the easiest mode. When Reeves continuously gets headshots and seems to kill 30 men without breaking much of a sweat, there’s no real risk involved and that in turn makes it hard for the audience to feel nervous for our protagonist. Reeves also faces swarms of endless enemies, much like levels of a video game, so many in fact that is begins to jump the shark (it’s unclear whether this was the filmmakers’ satirical intentions or not, but either way it’s a sin).


Director Chad Stahelski, a career stuntman, does stage his hand-to-hand fights in wide shots, allowing the actors to breathe, and for that he is to be commended. He does not implement the close-up, shaky cam punches with quick edits that nauseate so many modern filmgoers and as with the first film, Reeves and the stuntmen have choreographed action sequences that look and feel real.


The film sets itself up for a third go-around and despite being disappointed by this I will still be eager to have Reeves return to this world. Maybe if they can find a story that works and a narrative that flows easier then we can return to what made the first film so much fun but as it stands now, “John Wick: Chapter 2” marks the first cinematic disappointment of 2017.


Critics Rating: 5/10

Summit Entertainment

Summit Entertainment

‘Split’ has Great Performances but Weak Execution

Split_(2017_film)An ending can often make or break a film; a strong case can be made this film’s ending breaks it.


“Split” is the latest film from writer/director M. Night Shyamalan and follows a man with a multiple personality disorder (James McAvoy) who kidnaps three teenage girls (Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson and Jessica Sula).


A lot of people have given up on M. Night Shyamalan as a filmmaker, writing him off as a two-hit wonder from 2000. However after his 2015 film “The Visit,” some people maintained hope that Shyamalan maybe had some magic left in him. And while “Split” isn’t a masterpiece, it offers a fantastic central performance from James McAvoy and some decent thrills and chills, although it can’t stick the landing in the climax.


Through most of the time I was watching this I kept getting a “10 Cloverfield Lane” vibe, and not just because both films focus on hostages trapped in a basement by a captive who treats them decently enough but has unclear motives. There is a sense of claustrophobia and tension around the whole film, not knowing character’s backstories and what is driving them creates a mystery within itself.


James McAvoy is the best part of the film and frankly why it works at all. He technically turns in six or seven different performances, with his Kevin having the personality of an eight-year-old child one second and a middle-age fashion designer the next. McAvoy does wardrobe changes to coincide with his personalities but what is brilliant about his performance are the subtle differences of his personalities. One may twitch, another has a gentler stare, and it really is great work that much like John Goodman in “Cloverfield Lane” would probably get award talk if it came out in the fall instead of the first quarter of the year.


Anya Taylor-Joy, praised for her work in “The Witch” and the only good thing about “Morgan,” does a fine job as the “leader” of the captive girls and harbors some secrets of her own. Like McAvoy she has to convey a range of emotions and wear emotional masks, and she continues to show why her stock is on the rise.


Characters and performances aside, however, the film has problems. It is a slow-burn narrative however that doesn’t excuse its 117 minute runtime for feeling like it is well over two hours long. By the time the film was approaching its climax I thought to myself, “ok, this ending has to be pretty amazing to be worth all this build up.” And it wasn’t.


Despite being Shyamalan there isn’t a real twist ending and anything that could have been considered surprising is either foreshadowed or flat-out explained halfway through the film. There are also flashback sequences that end up having near nothing to do with the actual plot itself, and a surprise at the very end of the film will be a joy for those who pick up on the reference but disaffecting for those who don’t.


“Split” has a decent setup and features a fantastic performance from James McAvoy and for some that may be enough. However those who want a truly thrilling hostage film with a classic Shyamalan twist and reveal may be left disappointed.


Critics Rating: 6/10

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

‘Why Him?’ Wastes Talented on Both Sides of Camera

Why_HimWalter White meets Harry Osborn. Hilarious, right?!


“Why Him?” stars Bryan Cranston as a father who meets the man his daughter is dating (James Franco) and starts a feud with him during Christmas. Zoey Deutch, Megan Mullally and Keegan-Michael Key also star as John Hamburg directs.


Both James Franco and Bryan Cranston have been very funny men in very funny projects. Zoey Deutch was the bright spot of “Dirty Grandpa” and Keegan-Michael Key has had some great supporting roles in his career. Plus John Hamburg directed “I Love You, Man” and wrote “Meet the Parents.” So all these people together should have been able to create a very funny movie; or at least one that wasn’t this lazy.


Winter comedies usually aren’t the strongest. “Daddy’s Home,” “The Interview” and “Grudge Match” are all average-at-best films that ended their respective calendar year with thuds. “Why Him?” continues this tradition as it wastes two proven leads with a script that is determined to put the f-bomb in every other sentence, all while having no idea what it truly wants to accomplish.


The highlight of the film (which in this case is a flashlight in a black hole) is Franco, who is having a blast playing a man-child, running around shirtless with random tattoos and swearing in all the wrong settings. We’ve seen Franco do every kind of role imaginable but this is one where he just looks like he’s having fun and isn’t as pretentious as he has occasionally been accused of being.


Bryan Cranston gives an inexplicably dedicated performance, but he isn’t given many actual jokes. He’s almost the film’s villain, because he doesn’t want his daughter marrying Franco just because the old trope “you’re not worth her.” The two have an underdeveloped feud but Franco is consistently trying to patch things up, so we just see him as the innocent nice guy; having him try to outsmart Cranston to win the daughter’s approval would have made for more compelling cinema.


The rest of the cast turns in awkward performances, including a horrible turn from Griffin Gluck as the young son. His delivery is off, his tone is often wrong and he overacts every line; each time he talked I cringed. I hope Megan Mullally got a nice vacation home from her paycheck, because her twerking and trying to strip Bryan Cranston while high was embarrassing to watch.


Now the film is not without its share of laughs, and while they’re pretty spread out the ones that do hit hit hard. Most of the time it is because the circumstance is so ludicrous and unexpected (or unrealistic) that it is impossible to not be amused. There are also a few cameos that steal their respective scenes, and when they showed up the audience seemed happily surprised.


“Why Him?” isn’t that funny and it wastes its cast, but neither of those things should be that big a surprise given the patterns established by mainstream cinema 2016. “Office Christmas Party” is funnier and more festive (never thought I’d be endorsing that film) so if you want laughs at the theater this winter, that’s your best bet.


Critics Rating: 4/10

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

‘Hacksaw Ridge’ a Bloody, Moving Story of Conviction

Hacksaw_Ridge_posterI thought it was interesting the trailer for this said “from the director of ‘Braveheart’;” apparently it’s still too soon to use Mel Gibson’s name as a brand…


“Hacksaw Ridge” is the true story of World War II Army medic Desmond Doss, a pacifist who refuses to bear arms despite enlisting in the military and being thrown into the belly of the Pacific Theater.  Andrew Garfield portrays Doss as Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving and Vince Vaughn co-star with Mel Gibson directing.


Gibson is a talented director, although no one has ever accused him of being subtle. He last directed 2006’s “Apocalypto” (an underrated gem) and is best known for directing “Braveheart” (an overrated flick, don’t @ me). “Hacksaw Ridge” puts the best and the worst of Gibson on display (to varying degrees), with two halves featuring conflicting tones and pacing, but powerful messages and impactful violence that make for one of the most moving films of the year.


Andrew Garfield is best known for starring in the failed “Amazing Spider-Man” reboot, but his best performances have come in “The Social Network” and “99 Homes” (which if you haven’t seen I implore you to check it out; one of 2015’s best). He is a great “young” talent (I put young in quotes because he’s 33 years old, despite looking 23) and after this and Martin Scorsese’s upcoming “Silence” he should finally get the award attention he deserves.


Garfield’s Doss is a soft-spoken Southerner who is strong in his convictions to not pick up a weapon, and we fully buy into his reasoning. The film isn’t overly preachy about its Christian-based backing, but it does make you see why Doss truly would rather be court-martialed and go to prison than even practice firing a gun.


What really is surprising and pleasant to see, however, are the performances from the supporting cast, many of whom we are not used to seeing in dramatic roles. Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey and Vince Vaughn all fit their roles perfectly as the doubting Captain, bully solider and yelling, dark-humored drill Sergeant, respectively. Vaughn is a little jarring when he first walks on screen (visions of “True Detective” flashed before my eyes) but he carries his own and has a few funny insults that he yells at the new recruits.


Per classic Gibson, the film is brutally accurate in its depiction of war. Especially since this is Okinawa, where things did not go easy-breezy for the Americans, there is a lot of blood and loss of life in this film, and those with weak stomachs need not apply. But it is a necessary evil, as it only begins to display the horrors of war that Doss and his men endured, but after a while things do grow a tad repetitive.


Which brings me to my central gripe about the film and that’s that it can grow a tad monotonous. The first half is filled with constant instances of Doss refusing to fire a gun and getting punished for it in one way or another; we get it, he won’t kill. The second half is filled with constant instances of gratuitous violence and Doss running men to safety, which as awesome and lump-in-the-throat-inducing as it is, you can’t help but get a sense of emotional manipulation after a while. There is even a cheesy low-angle shot of Doss slowly standing up and putting on his helmet like something out of a Captain America comic.


Teresa Palmer is almost nothing but a plot device and while it is important to give Doss a little bit of backstory, her girlfriend character really doesn’t do much besides add runtime and a bit of romantic comedy relief to the film.


“Hacksaw Ridge” isn’t the war epic is sometimes thinks it is, nor is it as memorable as I’m sure many people were hoping, but in-the-moment there are few that know how to put the power of the human spirit on screen better than Mel Gibson. On an unrelated note, it must’ve been dusty in the theater I was in because by the end of the film I was tearing up from my allergies…

Critics Rating: 7/10

Summit Entertainment

Summit Entertainment

‘Girl on the Train’ Wastes Cast on Sluggish Melodrama

The_Girl_on_The_Train“Girl on the Train?” More like, “Girl, That Was Lame,” amiright?!

“The Girl on the Train” is based on the 2015 New York Times best-selling novel of the same name and follows an alcoholic woman (Emily Blunt) who gets involved with a missing person investigation. Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux and Luke Evans also star as Tate Taylor directs.

When I saw the trailer for this I, like many people, made an instant connection to “Gone Girl” due to the feel of the film and the whole “missing wife” plot. Upon seeing the film, it has a few similarities to that film, including non-linear timelines and unreliable narrators, but doesn’t share anything else that made “Gone Girl” so good.

Emily Blunt has really come onto the scene and into her own in the previous few years. After starring in romantic comedies like “The Devil Wears Prada” and “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen,” she headlined the action-thrillers “Looper,” “Edge of Tomorrow” and “Sicario.” So it makes sense that Blunt is the best part of this mystery, but the performances of her and her fellow actors aren’t enough to save the film.

Blunt plays Rachel, a divorcee whose life is spiraling out of control thanks in large part to her alcoholism. Blunt makes the character sympathetic, but at the same time there is an uncomfortable sense about her; when she tries to interact with another person we in the audience almost cringe because of how unnatural and awkward it feels. Justin Theroux (always welcome in my book) plays Rachel’s ex-husband, who remarried and now has a kid, and although he seems like the nicest guy in the world and is admittedly a victim to Rachel’s drinking, there is a tense sense whenever he is in the room.

That is the one thing the film does well, it establishes tones and feels, sometimes multiple at once based on what character is speaking, and being set in New York City during the autumn gives everything a brisk, dark orange glow.

However the performances get drowned out by a screenplay that is so intent on keeping everything in the shadows that is reveals nothing about the plot until the very end. While “Gone Girl” (or most any successful mystery) drops subtle hints throughout about the true nature of its tale, “Girl on the Train” keeps everything spinning and murky until it hits you over the head with the “twist” ending. Except it really can’t be called a twist because it wasn’t truly alluding to one outcome and suddenly flipped the script; it just spins you in circles until you barely know or care what is going on before jerking you to a stop and expecting you to just appreciate that you finally got some answers.

The dialogue doesn’t pop and the direction never is sure-handed enough to take any real chances. It plays out pretty much exactly how you would expect the guy who directed “Get on Up” and “The Help” helming a “Gone Girl” wannabe.

“The Girl on the Train” isn’t *bad* but there is no reason you should ever see it. There aren’t enough thrills to keep you engaged or enough mystery to make you think, and isn’t even so-bad-it’s-good; it’s just so-meh-it’s-boring.

Critics Rating: 4/10

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

‘Deepwater Horizon’ Big on Booms, Low on Story

Deepwater_Horizon_(film)It’s official: Peter Berg is a more toned down version of Michael Bay.

“Deepwater Horizon” is based on the true story of the 2010 explosion and oil spill by the titular drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico. Mark Wahlberg stars alongside Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Gina Rodriguez, Dylan O’Brien and Kate Hudson as Peter Berg directs.

I don’t think many people thought we needed a film based off of this tragedy; I mean, 210 million gallons of oil being spilled into Gulf of Mexico and 11 people losing their lives doesn’t exactly scream “Friday night fun.” And after seeing the movie I can tell you Wahlberg and Berg (teaming up again after “Lone Survivor” and before this year’s “Patriots Day”) certainly handle the subject with respect towards those involved and resentment towards BP Oil; however that doesn’t mean their finished product is as good as their intentions.

Mark Wahlberg is a movie star for sure, but I do believe he is underappreciated as an actor. I think he plays “everyday man” better than anyone, and if a muscular, handsome millionaire can make himself feel relatable to an average 20-something like me then clearly he is doing something right. Here, Wahlberg plays Mike Williams, but truly isn’t given too much to do. Williams is pretty much “Mark Wahlberg playing a drilling engineer” and by the time the disaster starts we know very little about him besides he has a wife and daughter and quips like Mark Wahlberg. By the climax he is able to show a range of emotion, but it’s a long journey there.

No characters, in fact, are given much development. Gina Rodriguez is shown having her car’s engine give out on her in the opening scene and that is the only character trait referred to her throughout the duration of the film. There are even characters (I won’t say who to avoid spoilers) who we don’t find out have wives and kids until they’re reunited with them at the climax! Would that have made for some (albeit forced) emotional heft? Yup, but Berg is more concerned with having things go boom.

Which brings me to my main point and circles back to my opening line: Peter Berg has way too much in common with Michael Bay. Berg is a more competent filmmaker, don’t get me wrong, but there are so many gratuitous shots of the American flag in this film it would make Colin Kaepernick’d knee get sore. The first hour of this film is pretty much nothing but explaining how oil drilling works, even though the film (brilliantly and without pandering) conveys in the first five minutes; I guess Berg really wants you to understand how we get stuff from the ground to tubes. The first hour is also filled with shoving it in our faces how negligent and ignorant British Petroleum was. Honestly the first half of this film is really monotonous and (dare I say) boring; I guess this should’ve been called “Deepwater HoriZZZon,” right?!

The second half is better, but it’s overly chaotic and things are constantly spilling and exploding and it is hard to figure out who is who and what is truly going on. Symbolic and a fair representation of the real-life event? Sure. But this is a film, not a documentary, you can take some liberties to streamline your narrative and clear up your sequences.

This one pains me, it really does; I really wanted “Deepwater Horizon” to be good. And I am sick and tired of 2016 films almost all exclusively being, “mehh like it’s fine, I guess?” because we deserve better than “meh, alright,” especially when ticket prices continue to rise. But that’s an argument and complaint for another day. As far as *this* “meh” film goes, it features solid enough performances from actors playing one-dimensional characters and you feel some attachment to the story. But that is purely because this is a real-life tragedy in which 11 people died and corrupt BP officials got off way too easy, not because Berg or Wahlberg earn anything with their big budget booms.

Critics Rating: 4/10

Summit Entertainment

Summit Entertainment

‘Magnificent Seven’ a Surprisingly Dull Western

Magnificent_Seven_2016Do yourself a favor and instead of watching this, go watch “3:10 to Yuma” and then “Seven Samurai” (after reading this review of course).


“The Magnificent Seven” is a remake of the 1960 western film of the same name, which in turn was a remake of the 1954 Japanese film, “Seven Samurai.” It stars Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Lee Byung-hun, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Martin Sensmeier as seven outlaws in the 1870s Old West who are hired to save a town from a corrupt industrialist (Peter Sarsgaard). Antoine Fuqua directs.


Fuqua has always been a mixed bag with me. When he tries to make popcorn action films like “Shooter” or “Olympus Has Fallen” the results are good, and the films are fun. However when he tries to elevate his craft to a more serious tone like “The Equalizer” or “Southpaw,” the finished products are meh at best (the exception being “Training Day,” but I haven’t seen that film in a minute). And unfortunately, Fuqua tries to make “Seven” too serious but yet keep a playful tone, and much like “Suicide Squad” the end result is a monotonous mess.


Denzel Washington, much like Tom Hanks, will never turn in a bad performance, no matter what kind of role he is in and he again shows why he is one of the biggest actors of his generation. Washington plays a man with a clouded past and acts in his own self-interests, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a sympathetic heart. Chris Pratt, who is quickly becoming Hollywood’s next big action star, is pretty fun in his role and provides most of the film’s laughs, however at times his character comes off as annoying.


And that is one of the film’s biggest problems: most every character besides Denzel, to varying degrees, is a cartoon. Ethan Hawke hisses during a gunfight, Vincent D’Onofrio speaks in a high-pitch for the entire film and Peter Sarsgaard’s villain is straight out of a Western comic book. Often it gets tedious and at times it becomes laughable, because all these different and quirky personalities never gel.


Fuqua has always been able shoot action scenes well however he also is used to being able to play with an R rating, a luxury he is not allowed here. The film has two main shootout sequences and the final one at the climax (which runs for an ungodly 45 minutes) falls victim to “PG-13 violence,” meaning there is a lot (*a lot*) of rapid fire editing and close-ups of people getting killed.


And let’s talk about that end fight. I touched on how it lasts way too long but it is also the only thing to truly happen in the entire film. The first hour and a half consists of the Seven riding horses and training the townspeople to fire guns. It wasn’t until they were doing the obligatory “final supper before battle” that I realized we were about to enter the climax of the film and nothing had happened yet. The stakes don’t feel earned and since the one single event is dragged out for the entire runtime it makes it difficult for them to be acknowledged at all.


“The Magnificent Seven” is fun in small bursts, and there’s a “summer movie season” vibe about it that is inviting, but the whole film drags along and with its polished, attractive cast and elaborate set pieces, it feels very “2016,” not like a dirty, gritty Western. The film is not magnificent, nor does it score a 7, but look on the bright side: at least Pratt and Washington both get chances to redeem themselves with their new films come December…


Critics Rating: 5/10

Columbia Pictures

Columbia Pictures

‘Blair Witch’ One of the Worst Horror Films of All-Time

Blair_Witch_2016_posterThis was hands-down the longest, most grueling 89 minutes I have ever spent in a movie theater.


“Blair Witch” is the third installment of the franchise of the same name and follows a group of friends who set out to visit the woods where the first film took place. James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Brandon Scott and Corbin Reid star as Adam Wingard directs.


I have never seen the original “Blair Witch Project” but am familiar with its place in cinematic history and unfortunately even more acquainted with what it introduced to mainstream horror films: found footage-style filmmaking. In my “Bridget Jones’s Baby” review I wrote how that was a sequel that was 15 years late but still had a meaningful story to share; “Blair Witch” achieves no such accomplishment and is instead quite honestly, no hyperbole, the worst horror film I have ever seen.


This is from Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett, the men who created the darkly funny slasher “You’re Next,” the pretty cool thriller “The Guest” and the “V/H/S” series, of which my roommate in college was a huge fan of. So it is proven that these two know how to write and shoot films that are self-aware, thrilling and have a creepy atmosphere. So what the hell went so wrong with “Blair Witch” is beyond me.


Nothing in this film feels earned or set up. It begins with “new” footage of the original film and how those hikers met their demise. But what a crazy coincidence, because the guy watching is the brother of the girl who went missing in that video and wants to go find her, convinced she’s still alive in the woods. A few things wrong with that: (1) the original “Blair Witch” is set in 1994 and this film takes place in 2014, meaning the main character has spent 20 years just waiting around not wanting to find her, and couldn’t have been more than five years old when she went missing and (2) there is no sane human who would think his sister who went missing 20 years prior would still be alive and chilling in a forest.


I get you need a reason for a new group of attractive young people to go into the woods to get slaughtered for our amusement, but don’t be lazy as to why that is. Just have a person who is obsessed with the legend and another who doesn’t believe in it, and they set out to prove the other wrong. It’s simple and it’s stupid but it would be more appealing and believable than what we are given.


But fine, they’re in the woods. Does scary stuff happen? Nope, not for the first 30 minutes it doesn’t. There isn’t even a few faux jump scares like a deer jumping out or a person tripping; there is not a single attempt at building tension for the first third of this film. It is just people walking around with backpacks spewing exposition dialogue. But once the ish does hit the fan, oh boy, watch out: nothing will continue to happen. People walk in circles with flashlights and annoying first-person cameras and yell the names of their lost friends (who went off by themselves in a forest at night, that’s natural selection trying to do its part and they’re getting in the way of it).


Stupid things continue to happen, from a girl with a broken ankle suddenly being able to sprint and climb trees to the good ole cliché of the flashlight running out of batteries just as the scary things begin to happen.


All of this could be forgiven if the film was scary but it is not, not even a little. There is one sequence where a girl is crawling through a tunnel but that only got to me because I am claustrophobic, and even that shot is in the trailer so I knew what it was building towards. The rest of the film is loud growling and sudden appearance of stick figures and none of it makes sense and even less of it is audible or visually coherent because of the atrocious shaky cam.


“Blair Witch” combines all the thrills of walking around with all the scares of an arts and crafts class. I cannot tell you enough how bored I was in this film and how bafflingly, laughably horrible the ending is, not that the first 88 minutes were any better. It is the worst film of 2016 (and 2016 has featured “Warcraft”), the worst horror film of all-time and quite possibly one of the worst films I have ever seen, period (I need to sleep on that, although sleep is something I won’t lose any of after watching this film).


Critics Rating: 1/10



Bridget Jones Delivers a ‘Baby’ and Some Charm

Bridget_Jones's_Baby_posterOf all the “it’s been over 10 years, did we really need a sequel?” films of 2016, this one is certainly the best.


“Bridget Jones’s Baby” (the grammar there hurts my brain) stars Renée Zellweger in the title role in the third installment of the franchise, and the first since 2004. This time around, Jones gets pregnant and either Colin Firth (also reprising his role) or Patrick Dempsey (making his first theatrical appearance since 2011’s “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”) could be the father. Sharon Maguire, who directed the original “Bridget Jones” film, returns to helm here.


The first “Bridget Jones” was innocent and fluffy enough but ultimately too hollow for me, and I tried to watch the second film as homework to prepare for this but despite my love of Hugh Grant I couldn’t even finish it. So that partnered with an awful trailer really had my bar for “Baby” set low; which may be why it surprised me.


What is impressive about this film is its dedication to be more than a fluffy, feel good comedy aimed at middle age women. It has f-bombs and raunch (albeit tamer than most R-rated comedies), as to be expected from a screenwriter of “Borat.”


Zellwegger is solid in the title role, however to me her character has never really come off as real; she seems like a caricature of a woman who can’t get her life together. And speaking of people who don’t act like a real human, Patrick Dempsey’s character is…something else. He’s an American who runs an online dating site but talks like Rob Lowe’s character from “Parks and Rec” (in fragmented. Sentences. And. All about. Negative. Energy.) Hugh Grant he is not, and Grant’s charming gentleman way is missed here. Firth’s character has always been intentionally awkward and at times it’s funny, at others it’s grating.


All three actors have solid chemistry together and occasional moments of hilarity, although you never get a real feel for why they would every truly interact or like one another were they not connected by a baby. Emma Thompson (who also co-wrote the script) steals every scene she is in playing Bridget’s gynecologist, and is so fun and charming that, as my friend so eloquently put, “I just really want to get drinks with Emma Thompson.”


The film’s largest problem is its pacing. It clocks in 123 minutes and you feel every second of it. The first half of the film is mostly exposition, reintroducing us to Bridget and then acquainting us with side characters. Not much happens and if the first 45 minutes were wiped out altogether we would have a much tighter, coherent film.


“Bridget Jones’s Baby” is the type of movie where if you saw the trailer and wanted to see it, then you will love it despite its overly quirky characters and monotonous pacing. If you just want a fluffy, feel-good film that features a fun as hell performance from Emma Thompson (really can’t understate how much she elevates this) then this should also do the trick.


In a year where “Zoolander” (2001) and “Independence Day” (1996) both got long-delayed sequels, this one actually has a story worth telling and wasn’t made simply as a cashgrab, and the fact that it is a relatively enjoyable film at that is commendable enough.


Critics Rating: 6/10