Tag Archives: movie

‘Ocean’s 8’ is Simple Fun that Goes Down Smoothly

As far as all-female reboots/re-imaginings of classic film franchises go, the bar for this to beat “Ghostbusters” was not that high…

“Ocean’s 8” stars Sandra Bullock as the estranged sister of Danny Ocean, and follows her as she puts together a crew of women to steal a diamond necklace during the Met Gala in New York City. Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna and Helena Bonham Carter fill out the group as Gary Ross directs and co-writes.

I don’t think anyone was dying to see this franchise revisited but when it was announced with the gender-swap twist there really wasn’t much backlash like the “Ghostbusters” remake/reboot saw. This was mainly because the trailers weren’t historically bad and the fanbase isn’t as cutthroat as that of “Ghostbusters.” And for the most part, also unlike “Ghostbusters” (which I’ll stop comparing this to because it’s a lazy association), “Ocean’s 8” does a good job of setting itself apart from its predecessors and (mostly) never trying to duplicate or one-up them.

The cast is obviously top-notch, full of Oscar, Emmy and Grammy winners, and they for the most part get equal screen time to play around. Some of them do get pushed to the side save for a randomly inserted “look at the crew bonding!” clip, like when Awkwafina shows Mindy Kaling how to use Tinder in a scene that last 30 seconds and leads nowhere. Anne Hathaway, my first true Hollywood crush, comes close to stealing every scene she is in playing a ditsy celebrity who is the target of the heist. Hathaway is essentially the exaggerated meme that society and the Hathahaters have painted her out to be and it’s a blast watching her play into it.

Much like the heist itself the glue at the center of the film is Bullock, who carries herself with a cocky but still kind-hearted way about her. We aren’t given much to her character besides she’s a thief who likes thieving and has a few bad relationships from her past but that never really hinders our viewing experience. James Cordon also shows up toward the end of the film and while the plotline he’s involved in goes on for far too long, he provides some of the film’s biggest laughs.

Now the heist itself is alright, there are a few intense moments and a couple creative ways the crew works around problems, but there are also *a lot* of things we’ve seen before, not only in the previous “Ocean’s” films but just heist plots in general. There is also a twist that I did not think was handled well (or plausibly) and it was only made worse by the fact that the marketing campaign inadvertently spoils it.

The film is shot well with a nice gleam (this is the Met Gala, after all) and the editing is sometimes fun and quick but other times holds for too long or don’t create a beat for the dialogue to be delivered properly.

“Ocean’s 8” is light entertainment that for the most part does not try to be anything else. There a few fun cameos and amusing one-liners, but mostly this is a movie focused on letting several Hollywood stars have a great time and allow the audience to do the same and there’s usually nothing wrong with that.

Critic’s Grade: B–

‘Solo’ Isn’t Special, but it is Fun

No matter how good the films are, I worry that we are creeping dangerously close to the point where “Star Wars” will lose its magic and we no longer eagerly look forward to the release of a new one…

“Solo: A Star Wars Story” is the origin story to the character of Han Solo, portrayed in the original trilogy by Harrison Ford. Here, Alden Ehrenreich takes over the reins of the character, with Donald Glover as his friend Lando Calrissian (originally played by Billy Dee Williams), Joonas Suotamo as the Wookie Chewbacca and Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Paul Bettany all in new roles. Ron Howard directs after taking over for Christopher Miller and Phil Lord, who were fired by Lucasfilm midway through filming.

You won’t read a single review about this film that doesn’t bring up the behind-the-scenes drama that plagued production so I won’t beat a dead horse, but in case you aren’t familiar with the situation here are the bullet points. Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, best known for helming the “Jump Street” movies, were originally hired to do the film but after they encouraged a lot of improve and were getting away from the script the studio fired them and brought in Ron Howard, who in turn reshot about 70% of the movie (some even say it’s up to 90%), ballooning the budget to $250 million. No one was really clamoring for a Han Solo origin story in the first place, part of what people like about him is his mystery, but as turns out, for a film with this much going against it, it isn’t half bad.

I was very high on Alden Ehrenreich after his show-stealing performance in “Hail, Caesar!” and when he was cast as Solo I got excited. Even after his bland turn in Warren Beatty’ s ”Rules Don’t Apply” I still thought he had the charisma to play a young Han Solo. And it’s odd, because half the time here he does have the swagger, cockiness and dry wit of Harrison Ford and it makes you have flashes of the iconic character. But at other points he seems lost, timid and almost a secondary role in his own film. I’m not sure if it was the direction (/change in directors), script or pressure of the role, but it was just odd to see him give half of a good performance.

Everyone else here is fine, with Woody Harrelson being a mentor of sorts and sneaking a few funny bits in here or there, Emilia Clarke is given little to do except stand there and be a goal and reminder of Han’s past and Donald Glover (naturally) oozes charm and panache as Lando, although he’s a bit of an extended cameo.

The action scenes are solid, with two big set pieces on a snowy train and inside a jail riot, although there isn’t anything as memorably iconic as “the hallway scene” from “Rogue One” or the Obi Wan-Anakin fight in “Revenge of the Sith.” Cinematographer Bradford Young, who earned an Oscar nomination for “Arrival,” gives the film a gritty, at times gold hue and I think it does a good job making this feel like its own little film in the sprawling Star Wars universe, not being so polished.

Speaking of “Rogue One,” much like the hallway scene there is a fun surprise that fans of the franchise will enjoy and it is cool to see some of the “how did Han end with [like this]?” questions get fleshed out. That being said the rest of the film does tend to suffer from the natural problems origin stories do, meaning it fills in too many holes about the character’s past or even gives us answers we didn’t even know we were supposed to be asking.

“Solo: A Star Wars Story” is very competently made and I think does just enough to earn its place in the saga’s legacy. I can’t say that I will ever have a dying urge to see it again or that I want to see more of these spin-offs, but I do think it is worth the one-time watch. It isn’t anywhere near as ambitious as “The Last Jedi,” comforting as “The Force Awakens” or great at giving us closure to storylines like “Rogue One” but for what it had to do, and all it had working against it, I’d say things turned out alright.

Critic’s Grade: B


‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ Looks Great, but That’s About It


First Kevin Spacey in “Baby Driver” then Michael Keaton in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and now Woody Harrelson: I keep forgetting how much I love certain actors until they show up on screen.


“War for the Planet of the Apes” is the third film in the reboot/prequel series and follows the final confrontation between the Apes, led by Caesar (Andy Serkis in motion capture), and the humans, led by a merciless Colonel (Harrelson). Steve Zahn, Amiah Miller and Gabriel Chavarria also star as Matt Reeves returns to directs.


I enjoyed the first “Planet of the Apes” reboot, “Rise,” as it was a fresh take on a worn franchise and featured a (to me, at least) always likable James Franco. Its sequel, “Dawn,” was a letdown as it was never as much fun as it should’ve been (an ape riding a horse wielding duel machine guns should be a blast) and despite its clear intentions, fell into standard blockbuster territory instead of an emotional drama. This follow-up is more of the same, as it’s visually striking but narratively weak, resulting in a middle-of-the-road, at times monotonous, experience.


As to be expected, Andy Serkis again shows why he is the king of motion capture as he plays the king of the apes. Every one of Serkis’ squints, lip quivers and growls are depicted on the face of Caesar the ape and there are scenes where you are transcended by it; I’m sure we’ll have to sit through another “give Andy Serkis his Oscar!” campaign this fall.


Woody Harrelson is the best part of the film, however, playing the iron-fisted military leader. Having lost his son to the same disease that wiped out most of humanity, Harrelson is determined to keep humans as the dominant species. He shares two fantastic scenes with Serkis where both men are at the top of their game, and makes you question what really are the traits that separate man from beast?


The film is visually constructed well, too, with Reeves again trying to use as many practical effects and sets as possible. Mostly set in a snowy military base in Northern California, there are plenty of moments of visual awe to behold. In what is basically Ape Auschwitz, Reeves sets up plenty of simple and subtle visual cues to concentration camps that I was impressed by.


However then he feared that the audience would be too stupid to understand a “Schindler’s List” reference, so he takes things one step further to ensure everyone gets that this prison is a bad place and the humans are evil. It’s this refusal to stay subtle that is one of my biggest faults with the film.


If there was a dedication to subtlety here then I would appreciate the film a whole lot more, but Reeves (who also co-wrote the script) doesn’t trust his audience to be able to understand imagery. Instead, he chooses to have Caesar have continuous hallucinations of his former ape rival to show the audience that eventually all apes (and people) fall victim to hate. Visual similarities to a Nazi concentration camp not clear enough? Let’s have the victims start getting whipped to liken things to slavery. And much like “Captain America: Civil War” there’s the overlying message that revenge is bad and won’t bring the people you love people back, no matter how much you try; children’s stuff.


The final conflict is impressive and surely where a lot of the $150 million budget went, but much like “Dawn” it’s just never as much fun as it should be.


“War for the Planet of the Apes” is going to be about as good as you thought “Dawn” was. If Serkis’ motion capture performance and the imagery of apes riding horses through a post-apocalyptic landscape is enough for you then you’ll enjoy it; but if you like films with engaging narratives and emotional payoffs, then this will be yet another disappointment.


Critics Rating: 5/10


‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ a Welcome Return-to-Form for the Character


Much like Kevin Spacey, I always seem to forget how much I love Michael Keaton until I see Michael Keaton pop up on screen.


“Spider-Man: Homecoming” is the second reboot in five years of the character, and features Tom Holland reprising his role as the titular hero from last year’s “Captain America: Civil War.” This time we skip over all the origin stories and Uncle Ben’s death and get right into Peter Parker trying to be a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, until a new supervillain named Vulture (Keaton) threatens New York City with dangerous weapons. Jon Favreau, Jacob Batalon, Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr. also star as Jon Watts directs.


I love the character of Spider-Man. He’s no Batman (duh) but when done right there is something about a sarcastic teenager in red, white and blue spandex that is just impossible not to find enjoyable. Sam Raimi’s first film back in 2002 redefined the modern superhero genre (and literally changed the start date of the summer movie season from Memorial Day to first weekend of May) and “Spider-Man 2” is universally accepted as one of-if not the-greatest superhero films of all-time. The third film then had a mixed response while the Andrew Garfield reboot series (if you want to call two films no one liked a “series”) were a colossal misfire that resulted in Sony negotiating a deal to give the character back to Marvel, and it will be interesting to see how history remembers those two outings. But enough Spidey history, let’s get talking about this latest rendition.


Just like in “Civil War” Tom Holland shines here. He is just so darn charming, innocent and likable, and that’s just as Peter Parker. His Spider-Man has all the quips that Garfield’s was missing (saying “wait a minute, you guys aren’t the real Avengers!” to a group of bank robbers in Halloween masks) and he is just so much fun and it is clear that Holland himself is having a blast in the role of a lifetime.


The supporting cast are all great, too, with Robert Downey Jr. reprising his role as Tony Stark aka Iron Man, acting both as a bridge for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and this reboot series as well as Peter’s father figure since we don’t get an Uncle Ben this time around. Downey isn’t in the film all too much (every scene he has is in the trailer) but he is as sarcastic and witty as one may hope. Marisa Tomei has some genuine moments as Aunt May, and chooses to make this version of the character a little more nerdy and “try hard” (and clearly younger) than Rosemary Harris’ elderly, always worried take.


Michael Keaton is arguably one of the better villains that the MCU has seen, although that bar isn’t set too high. A blue-collar worker screwed over by a rigged system, Keaton doesn’t want world domination he just wants to make money while getting back at the elites. He gets some scenery to chew and has one genuinely tension-filled scene but overall he feels slightly underused, but it was still great to see him in a villain role, and continuing his mini-career renaissance of his.


There really isn’t too much action here to speak of, a lot of the film focuses on Peter trying to balance high school and being Spider-Man, and he isn’t always punching men in big flying monster suits; more often than not he’s stopping bike thieves and helping give old ladies directions. When the action does hit it is as clean and fun as any film with a $175 million budget and the Marvel brand slapped on it can expect to be, and is all the more impressive coming from a director who had only made small indie dramas (see Watts’ “Cop Car” if you haven’t).


What holds this back from the levels of Raimi’s first two films is a bit of a sloppy narrative here and there. The film isn’t always focused on Vulture and his plan, it just cuts back to him every now and again for a while to remind you that eventually we’re going to get to a big confrontation with him and Spider-Man. There were six screenwriters on this and it’s clear, sometimes the balance between big-budget superhero blockbluster and coming-of-age comedy are seamless, other times they’re jarring.


The film’s trailers also ruin *a lot* so if you have managed to avoid seeing the four of them up to this point, try to keep it that way. Scenes will be going on and suddenly you’ll realize you know exactly how things are going to play out because the trailers all spoil it.


“Spider-Man: Homecoming” is a welcome return to form for the titular character and a nice little side-entry into the MCU. When I saw “Spider-Man 2” in theaters as a 10 year old it was the first time I was ever truly left speechless by a film’s greatness; and although “Homecoming” isn’t perfect, it does bring me joy knowing that today’s kids finally have a Spider-Man worthy of being looked up to and enjoyed, because leaving them with Andrew Garfield’s would have been a travesty.


Critics Rating: 7/10

Sony Pictures

Sony Pictures

This ‘House’ Built on a Pile of Wasted Talent


Will Ferrell really needs to stop making R-rated comedies, they’re never good.


“The House” stars Ferrell and Amy Poehler as parents who start an underground casino in order to pay for their daughter’s college tuition. Jason Mantzoukas, Ryan Simpkins and Nick Kroll also star as Andrew J. Cohen makes his directorial debut.


I was looking forward to this one ever since it was announced in early 2015. Even though he has had a losing streak lately I always try to give Will Ferrell films a chance, and writers Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O’Brien penned “Neighbors,” its sequel and the entertaining “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” so there was a lot here to make one opportunistic, and I would have been willing to bet on this being a success. But just like “Semi-Pro,” “Get Hard” and “Step Brothers” (don’t @ me), Ferrell again stumbles with his R-rated attempt as “The House” wastes its cast in a thinly scripted, dull and uninspired romp.


Like I said in my review of “Rough Night,” I am pretty generous to comedies. If it makes me laugh, I tend to give a film a passing grade, since a point of a comedy is to make you laugh. But “The House” doesn’t really have that many genuine moments of comedy, and the best parts of the film are in the trailer. The film is stretched so thin (it’s only 88 minutes long) that it almost doesn’t feel like a real movie, which would explain why there was only one trailer for this; had they made a second one they would have ended up showing entire film.


Some scenes last for 30 seconds simply to deliver a single punchline, while other sequences come and go without even attempting to create a laugh; or at least, no one in my audience laughed. Which is always awkward, when a film delivers a punchline then has the beat before the next line of dialogue so the audience can laugh without missing a line. But when no one laughs, the silence in the theater is only more uncomfortable.


To their credit, Ferrell and Poehler seem to be putting in at least some effort and in another project I’m sure would be a great comedic pairing. But the script doesn’t make them anything besides cookie-cutter “parents who are losing their kid to college and dread empty nest syndrome” and the supporting cast are all over-the-top characters that only exist in movies. The film’s lone bright spot is Jason Mantzoukas, who I am normally not a fan of, I think he is grating and always has the dial turned to 11 out of 10, but he is a little more tame here and has some great delivery of lines that had no right being so funny (someone asks him why he didn’t drive his car to the party and he simply goes “ha, I can’t find it.” I don’t know, I laughed).


There really isn’t much more to say about “The House.” I saw it just a few hours ago and it’s already all but gone from my mind. I can’t see this being entertaining enough for anyone to really enjoy and it is certainly a letdown given the talent on both sides of the camera. The last time Ferrell had an R-rated film in the first half of a year was “Get Hard” in 2015, and he followed it up with the not-so-great “Daddy’s Home” later than holiday season. “Daddy’s Home” is getting a sequel this November, so here’s hoping history doesn’t repeat itself.


Critics Rating: 4/10

Warner Bros. Pictures

Warner Bros. Pictures

‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ Is Awful, but What Did You Expect?


I am thoroughly convinced that since he knows they will make money regardless of quality, Michael Bay has made these films louder, longer and more incoherent just as punishment to film critics who are forced to watch them.


“Transformers: The Last Knight” is the fifth film of director Michael Bay’s “Transformers” series and follows Mark Wahlberg who must go on the run to help the Autobots find the ancient staff of Merlin in order to stop the Transformers’ home planet from destroying the earth [eyeroll]. Josh Duhamel, Anthony Hopkins and Laura Haddock also star as Bay again directs (in what he insists is his final film of the franchise).


The first “Transformers” film is pretty universally accepted as a fun summer blockbuster and I myself really enjoyed it when it came out over 10 years ago, and the sequels are mostly just noise (although I am an apologist for the second film, there’s something entertaining about just how bad it is). However like most people I *hated* “Age of Extinction” and assumed that any fifth film would just be more of the same; for the most part, I was right.


I know the easy thing to say to anyone like me who will review a film like this is “well you went in wanting to hate it” and that’s really not true. Like I said, I like the first film and will even defend the second and third as fun popcorn flicks with enjoyable performances from Shia LaBeouf. I even think that when he actually tries, Michael Bay is a talented director; he knows how to stage action sequences and when given a good script he can even have a sense of humor (“The Rock” remains one of the best action films ever made). But “The Last Knight,” while ever so slightly better than “Age of Extinction,” is everything people have grown to hate about Bay’s films and represent everything wrong with modern Hollywood.


First things first, this film is two hours, 26 minutes long. While 20 minutes shorter than the last film, it has no right being this long; it doesn’t earn it, nor does it even need to be. The people who actually like these films come to see colorful robots fight each other and probably don’t have the largest attention spans; give them a 90 minute romp, not a Scorsese epic. The pacing of the second half of this film is so abysmal that when the big fight between Optimus Prime and the other Transformers finished it felt like we had just witnessed the climax; turns out there was still over 30 minutes left. When the next scene began I heard a solid four or five people in my theater groan.


The actual climax of the film is the worst thing to happen to cinema in the last three years (you know, since the last “Transformers” film). It is so bloated, so loud, so needlessly confusing and so devoid of anything resembling emotion or cause that it is almost deplorable; I was getting physically tired watching what was onscreen and began rooting for the film to just end.


Anthony Hopkins is in this movie and following his performance in this year’s “Collide” it’s clear that he has given up caring about his career. And I mean God bless him, he has his Oscar and has earned the right to do paycheck films; most of his scenes in this take place in sports cars and a castle, both of which I’m convinced are actually his that he bought with the checks from this film. Stanley Tucci plays Merlin (instead of reprising his role from the last film) and in his one scene chews scenery like only he can and Mark Wahlberg plays himself with something occasionally resembling a Texan accent and he is fine, but as with the last film this film isn’t about dialogue it’s about action. After all, how will the studio pander and appeal to all those Chinese audiences if half the film is clever dialogue that will get lost in translation?


Michael Bay keeps making up rules and powers for the Transformers, with them this time being about to shoot bullets that slow down time and being able to reassemble themselves upon being destructed. It’s cool but gets old fast before being used as a deus ex machina. And the continuity of the plot continues to be lazily altered. In the first film the Transformers say it’s the first time they were on Earth, except then in the second film they built the pyramids and in the 4th they killed the dinosaurs and now they apparently helped King Arthur and aided in defeating the Nazis. I know I shouldn’t care about the plot, it’s a “Transformers” movie, but if Bay is going to be that sloppy then it has to be condemned.


And one final thing, speaking of sloppy: the aspect ratio of the film changes way too often. In an IMAX film, oftentimes action scenes are shot in full screen and then dialogue sequences return to having the black bars on the top and bottom. Only here (and I saw it in normal 2D), the black bars appear and reappear from one shot to the other, even in straight-up talking scenes, and it is distracting and very annoying.


OK, I’m at near 900 words on “Transformers: The Last Knight” and while I’m sure I could vent for a thousand more I’m going to let both of us move on with our day. Look, you knew this movie was going to be bad and no review was going to change whether or not you were going to see it. But it needs to be said that this film is needlessly long, awkwardly unfunny and visually unappealing, and the fact that “The Last Knight” won’t be the last “Transformers” film makes me die a little inside.


Critics Rating: 3/10

Subtle Performances Elevate ‘The Exception’


Christopher Plummer’s lone Oscar was a career achievement award and I think the man has been criminally underrated in his career.

“The Exception” is a romantic drama set in the early years of World War II. The plot follows a young Nazi officer (Jai Courtney) who is sent to keep an eye on the exiled German Emperor Wilhelm II (Plummer), only to fall in love with one of his maids (Lily James). David Leveaux makes his feature film directorial debut after a career in stage work.


I love me a WWII-set drama. Even when the films themselves may be a bit underwhelming (“Allied”), the setting and production design usually sucks me into what is one of my favorite time periods in human history. Things are no different here, as while certain aspects of the film fail to deliver as much as they’d like, the setting, and a subtly brilliant performance by Christopher Plummer, make this one worth checking out.


Like I said up top, although he finally won an Oscar for “Beginners,” I feel Christopher Plummer doesn’t get the love he deserves. He quietly steals the show in films like “Inside Man” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and the 87-year-old is masterful again here. Plummer brings a sense of warmth to the Kaiser and I cherished every scene he was in. He makes you sympathize with him without feeling pity, relate without empathizing.


Following a surprisingly solid performance in “Suicide Squad,” Jai Courtney again shows that perhaps he can in fact act after all. There’s a running joke that Courtney is a bland and charismatic-less actor who Hollywood has tried to shove down our throats following top billing in big-budget blockbusters like “A Good Day to Die Hard” and “Terminator: Genisys,”  but I have to hand it to Courtney: he does a surprisingly nimble job here. Playing a Nazi with dark past and conflicting loyalties, Courtney never over-acts or makes you roll your eyes, which at this point in his career is a compliment.


Mostly taking place in Wilhelm’s mansion, the production design is a solid recreation of 1940 Netherlands. German cars and Nazi banners roam the grounds while chipped paint and rusted bedframes fill the bedrooms; much like the film’s performances the attention to detail is subtle but appreciated.


Where the film falters is its execution of its narrative. The film reveals that there is a British spy somewhere on the grounds and it is Courtney’s job to find them; however instead of building to some great twist, the culprit is revealed in the first 20 minutes. The romance between Courtney and James never fully feels fleshed out or earned, either, as they share just a few scenes together and we are to believe they fall in love over several days simply because they slept together.


“The Exception” is far from the best World War II film (it’s not even the best WWII romance to be released in the past year) and it is certainly forgettable. Normally a romantic thriller that struggles with both its romance and its thrills would turn out to be a disaster; however if you appreciate the time period and some fine performances, including a stunning Christopher Plummer, then I think this film may be an exception to the rule.


Critics Rating: 6/10



Tupac Biopic ‘All Eyez on Me’ Isn’t Very Well Made, but I Liked it Anyways

AllEyez_posterYou know those movies that you’re aware aren’t that good but you can’t help but enjoy anyways? That’s this.


“All Eyez on Me” is the long delayed and long overdue biopic about the rapper Tupac Shakur. Demetrius Shipp Jr., whose father worked with Tupac on one of his albums, plays the late artist as Kat Graham, Dominic L. Santana, Hill Harper and Danai Gurira also star. Benny Boom directs.


The behind-the-scenes stories of what it took to get this film made are interesting enough to be a movie on their own. It went through several directors, including Antoine Fuqua and John Singleton, as well as a handful of legal trouble and lawsuits, including pushback from Shakur’s mother. However it is finally hitting the big screens and while it is no “Straight Outta Compton,” and one could argue it’s not even that good at all, there is something about “All Eyez on Me” that I just found enjoyable.


I loved “Straight Outta Compton” so when they announced that Tupac was getting a biopic it only seemed natural and I was intrigued. The trailers for this were a bit of a mixed bag, with half being intense and gripping while the other half felt like they were stitched together by a film student and the finished product is a lot like that, too. There are parts that are engaging, interesting and worthy of Tupac’s legacy; however just as often the film is a sloppy mess that doesn’t know how to get from scene to scene.


As the lead role Demetrius Shipp Jr. shines. He is a spitting image of Tupac, to the point it is almost eerie, and he does a good job (for the most part) of capturing that charismatic smile that Shakur had, as well as some of the more emotionally heavy scenes with his mother.


The rest of the cast do solid work, too, but Shipp is really the only one with enough screen time to be considered a main character. Others flow in-and-out of the film depending on what the current scene requires, with Tupac’s friends Jada Pinkett (Kat Graham) and The Notorious B.I.G. (Jamal Woolard, reprising his role from 2009’s “Notorious”) showing up here and there. Dominic L. Santana takes over the role of Suge Knight from “Compton’s” Ryan Marcos Taylor and he does alright. The man has the large frame, beard and scowl that Knight had, however he never captures the same intimidating sense that Taylor showed in 2015.


The scenes that work best in the film are when Tupac is on stage, which makes sense because director Benny Boom is best known for his music videos. I constantly found myself nodding my head and moving my feet in my seat, and I forgot just how many hits Tupac had that I was familiar with; even critics of the film as a whole won’t be able to deny the powerful pleasures of its musical moments.


But when the film isn’t focused on Tupac’s musical career is where the real faults lie. The first half is lazily told through flashbacks as Tupac talks to a reporter while in jail for sexual assault (a topic the film brushes over and almost villainizes his victim for) and things are really choppy. Boom wouldn’t know subtlety if it hit him in the back of the head and he makes sure you know exactly how every character is feeling at every moment and even puts location and date stamps at the start of near every scene, because he’s not a strong enough visual director to get either point across on his own.


The ending is also cheesy and over-the-top and knocked my enjoyment down a little bit, just because it doesn’t tug at you as much as it should and Boom and the screenwriters, again, take such a by-the-numbers and straightforward approach that it’s just indolent.


At two hours and 20 minutes, “All Eyez on Me” does not justify its runtime and had it been cut down to a solid 120 minutes then I think this could have been a genuinely good movie. That being said I still enjoyed a lot of it, almost like it is a TV movie spiritual sequel to “Straight Outta Compton,” and I think if you’re willing to overlook some of the lazier execution and excessive runtime then there’s enough here to like.


Critics Rating: 6/10

Summit Entertainment

Summit Entertainment

‘Rough Night’ is One Rough Comedy

Rough_NightThis movie will quickly be forgotten by most people, but it has skyrocketed Zoë Kravitz to the top of my bae list…


“Rough Night” follows a group of college friends who reunite 10 years later for a bachelorette party, only to have things go wrong when they accidently kill a stripper. Scarlett Johansson, Zoë Kravitz, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell and Ilana Glazer star as Lucia Aniello directs.


I was slightly intrigued by this film. The trailers weren’t anything great (my theater was dead silent when it played before “The Mummy”) but the premise seemed amusing, if not familiar, and the cast was appealing. And while the film isn’t as rough an outing as it could have been, the actors can only do so much to save it from being overly scattershot.


I’ll start with the cast as most of them are entertaining. It’s always fun to see Scarlett Johansson in a lighter role (after her blah turns in “Lucy” and “Ghost in the Shell”) and she is by far the biggest name on the poster here. Zoë Kravitz seems to be having the most fun and I really enjoyed her presence and chemistry with Ilana Glazer, and Paul W. Downs (who co-produced and co-wrote the film with Aniello, his real life girlfriend) has a few funny scenes as Johansson’s fiancé, too. However Gazer, Bell and McKinnon are all varying degrees of mixed bags, often going one note and either not taking a joke far enough or letting it go on for too long, and McKinnon has become a caricature of herself, here sporting an Australian accent.


And that is one of the film’s biggest problems, is as both a writer and director Aniello doesn’t seem to know how to deliver a punchline. Characters’ voice inflections or the amount of time a pause lasts just seem off, and it feels that there were a lot of missed opportunities for some great material and punchlines.


The film goes by at a nice enough pace, even if it feels a little longer than its 101 minute runtime, and there are a few twists near the end that I did find enjoyable; this is far from a bad film.


Normally I am pretty liberal with grading comedies. If I laugh then I tend to give a film a passing grade; after all, that’s the point of a comedy. And while I chuckled here or there and had one laugh-out-loud moment, I never really was finding things funny, and it goes back to the almost annoying feeling of there being jokes seemingly left on the table.


“Rough Night” is a watchable enough summer flick but it isn’t too funny and at the end of the day that’s what you judge a comedy off of. The cast is dedicated and attractive and there are moments of amusement throughout, but it all just feels like an undercooked idea that could have been a great black comedy, but settles for being a meh “Hangover” wannabe.


Critics Rating: 4/10

Sony Pictures

Sony Pictures

‘The Mummy’ Should Have Stayed Under Wraps

The_Mummy_(2017)I don’t think an intended cinematic universe has ever started off with this big of a thud.


“The Mummy” is a reboot of Universal’s titular franchise and the first intended installment of their “Dark Universe,” a collection of their most famous monsters from Frankenstein to the Wolfman. Here, Tom Cruise stars as a treasure hunter who becomes cursed after unearthing the tomb of an Egyptian princess (Sofia Boutella). Annabelle Wallis, Jake Johnson, Courtney B. Vance and Russell Crowe also star as Alex Kurtzman directs.


I don’t think many people were looking forward to this movie. The trailers were as bland as can be and while things like King Kong and Godzilla still sell tickets, the smaller films like “Dracula Untold” and “I, Frankenstein” don’t perform well at the box office. This is supposed to be the start of an epic joined franchise of monsters, with Universal so confident in themselves they’ve already released press photos of all the actors together and put the “Dark Universe” logo before this film. But after seeing how bad this film is, and how I’m sure the box office receipts will follow suit, this may be one series that is as dead as an Egyptian king.


Not much in this film works but I’ll briefly go over the things that do. Russell Crowe is seemingly the only person who knows what sort of movie he is in and he gives his character the right amount of cheese and tongue-in-cheekiness. I won’t say who he is playing because the trailers do not disclose it, but he has one fight scene that is the only time the film is something even resembling fun. Also some of the production design is nice; when things aren’t foggy or sandy the sets pieces are cool to look at.


Ok now onto, well, everything else.


This film has no idea what it wants to be, which is only made obvious by the fact that it has six writers and three editors. Tones constantly jump from serious to attempts at comedy in a matter of seconds, including some jarringly awkward moments from Jake Johnson (of “New Girl” fame). He is so out of place here and his character is so against the grain of what the rest of the film is trying to do that every time he came on screen I was instantly annoyed.


Speaking of comedy, there are a few laughs in this film; some are intentional but most aren’t. For most of the film Tom Cruise seems to be trying to give a charismatic performance and as usual he is to be commended for doing his own stunts, but there are some awful lines of dialogue in this film. By the climax my entire theater had given up caring and silently formed a mutual agreement to begin to laugh at and openly roast what was happening on screen, which was the most enjoyment I had in the (seemingly eternal) 107 minute runtime.


The plot itself doesn’t even make sense, not that you care. The undead princess wants to get a knife to kill Cruise so he can be taken over by an ancient Egyptian god, except when she kisses people they turn into zombie slaves, and suddenly there are some Templar Knights who are also on her side despite dying 3,000 years apart. And also Russell Crowe is a walking exposition machine. It’s a mess, but not one cleaning up.


For most of its duration “The Mummy” is boring, which is the worst thing a film can be, especially a big-budget summer blockbuster. It’ll be interesting to see if Universal does some soul-searching and agenda swapping, since I can’t see enough people liking (or seeing) this to have the desire for more monster movies to be made.


There is a point where the mummy is talking to a girl she is about to kill and she says, “there are some fates worse than death.” Yeah, sitting through this movie.


Critics Rating: 3/10