Tag Archives: movie

‘Captain Underpants’ About as Fun as a Wedgie

Captain_Underpants_The_First_Epic_Movie_posterWell, they can’t all be “The Boss Baby.”


“Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie” is an adaptation of the children’s book series of the same name. The film stars Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch as two elementary schoolers who hypnotize their mean principle (Ed Helms) into becoming a superhero. Nick Kroll, Jordan Peele and Kristen Schaal also star as David Soren directs.


I was actually a big fan of this series growing up, so with it finally getting a film it completes the trifecta of my top three favorite children books getting big screen adaptions (the other two being “Harry Potter” and “A Series of Unfortunate Events”). And maybe it’s because this series is aimed at six-year-olds and I’m, you know, not six, but the long overdue film version of “Captain Underpants” just isn’t that fun or inventive and commits the biggest movie sin possible: it’s boring.

This only cost $38 million to produce as part of an experiment by DreamWorks to see if they could create a cheap but successful animated film (may as well start with a brand name item to guarantee at least some business). To put that into perspective, most animated films cost around $125 million to make, and companies like Illumination take flack for only making their films for $75 million and getting lazy with some of the animations.


The lower budget here is felt, as a lot of the motions and scenes are flat and uncreative. Characters flail around and don’t really interact with their environment because that would cost money. This looks like a straight-to-DVD film from 2003, which is when this film should have been released; I don’t think too many kids even know about Captain Underpants nowadays. There are a few humorous moments where the film implements real stock footage of a tiger or sock puppets, but when the best scenes of your animated film are the ones that aren’t animated, that’s a red flag.


The voice acting here is uninspired and a lot of the time just downright awkward. Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch have seemingly no chemistry despite supposedly being best friends, and I get that the two likely recorded their lines in different booths on different days but look at a film like “Boss Baby;” the dynamic between Alec Baldwin and child actor Miles Bakshi felt genuine and they came across as real characters. I’m not sure if it is Nicholas Stroller’s script or Hart and Middleditch just not caring but their performances are hardly up-to-par with both other animated films and their own previous works.


I know I’m not the demographic for this film, I get that, but I have never subscribed to the “it’s a kids film so it’s OK that it’s stupid” because that is just an excuse for filmmakers to make bad movies with minimum effort just to make money. The good animated films, and even the second-tier ones, have jokes for both adults and kids and don’t just make a character run around and scream or fart when they can’t think of a clever way to end a scene.


There were kids in my theater laughing here or there, but even they didn’t seem to be overly enjoying “Captain Underpants: The Epic First Movie.” I got a brief sense of nostalgia watching one of my favorite childhood heroes finally get his place on the big screen, but about 40 minutes in I felt my eyes getting heavy and my head slowly dropping, and at the same time my friend then leaned over to me and said “I’d so rather be in ‘Boss Baby’.” Truest words have never been spoken.


Critics Rating: 3/10

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

‘Wonder Woman’ Mostly Succeeds at Being Fun and Fresh

Wonder_Woman_(2017_film)All it took for the DC Extended Universe to get on track was pairing a director who hasn’t made a film in 14 years with a female character who has never had her own movie.


“Wonder Woman” is the fourth installment of the DCEU, and follows Amazonian goddess Diana Prince as she accompanies an American pilot in World War I Europe on a mission to stop the launch of a deadly German biochemical weapon. Gal Gadot stars as the titular character with Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston and David Thewlis in supporting roles. Patty Jenkins directs.


The DCEU desperately needed this film to be critical success. Following mixed responses to “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman,” “Suicide Squad,” the film many thought would save the series, turned out to be the biggest dumpster fire of them all. So if “Wonder Woman” turned out to be bad like its predecessors, all hope for the franchise would be lost and no one would care about “Justice League” in November. Well thankfully for Warner Bros. and audiences, “Wonder Woman” is far from a failure, thanks to some fun action and performances, even if its climax is a letdown.


Whether you liked “Batman v Superman” or not, everyone agreed Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot each stole the show. And Gadot again shines here, giving us a character with heart who views the world with the innocent eyes of that of a child. Not only because she is a fish out of water, going from her secluded exotic homeland to 1915 London, but because she insists on seeing the good in humanity, despite the fact that they are killing themselves by the millions. She is beautiful yet fierce, kind yet physical; it’s an overall great performance and places Gadot as the building block for the DCEU.


Chris Pine is also great as Steve Trevor, a pilot who crash lands on Wonder Woman’s previously uncharted island. Pine has some great comedic moments and his natural charm that has been shown in non-Star Trek films like “Horrible Bosses 2” and “Hell or High Water” bleeds through.


The action is nicely shot, with Jenkins and cinematographer Matthew Jensen not cutting too often and making sure the audience can actually tell what is happening on screen. Numerous times I had a smile creep onto my face when Wonder Woman kicks a bad guy through a wall or spin kicks a German, and the sequences are accompanied by a great musical score by Rupert Gregson-Williams.


Everything was going great. I was having a blast and even the slower character-building scenes were engaging because of the incredible period piece set design and fun performances. Then the climax happened. Not since “The Wolverine” has a film betrayed everything it stood for so much.


Most of “Wonder Woman” is a boots-on-the-ground, relatively “realistic” superhero film, in the sense that it is her in trench warfare with her shield or punching guys in a room. However the climax of this film goes from that to CGI destruction at such a breakneck pace that it left my jaw on the floor, and not in a good way. Suddenly it was god against god, with lightning bolts and fireballs being hurled in a desolated wasteland and it gets boring real quick. It is the same problem that plagued literally all three other DC films, and if “Justice League” follows suit (which its trailer implies it will), then I will just give up on this franchise ever knowing how to properly conclude their films.


I feel ambivalent right now because I truly loved the first two hours of “Wonder Woman;” I was legitimately sitting in my chair thinking that it was one of the better superhero films we’ve gotten in recent years; but the finale really did leave a bad taste in my mouth. Instead of being excited to run out and tell people to see this, I have to attach a big asterisk next to my recommendation that reads “but the finale hurts it a lot.” And I know my score will seem high given the tone I’ve ended my review with, but what’s a score but a subjective summarization of a review you already read?


Here is the bottom line: you should see “Wonder Woman,” because Gadot and Pine are great, the action is fun and it makes me excited for the future of the DCEU, but try your hardest not to fall in love with the film because the ending with break your heart.


Critics Rating: 8/10

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.

‘Dead Men Tell No Tales’ a Fun Summer Adventure

Pirates_of_the_Caribbean,_Dead_Men_Tell_No_TalesThis is certainly better than the fifth film of a franchise has any right being…


“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” is the fifth installment of the series that began all the way back in 2003, and the first since 2011’s “On Stranger Tides” (which I doubt you remember was even a thing). Johnny Depp reprises his role as Captain Jack Sparrow, and this time must find the Trident of Poseidon before an undead captain who Sparrow damned years ago (Javier Bardem) can get his revenge. Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Kevin McNally and Geoffrey Rush also star as Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg direct.


The “Pirates” films are a lot like the “Transformers” series. They make a lot of money, everyone forgets a fourth and fifth ones were even made despite no one desiring any after the initial trilogy and only the first film was an actual good movie. I love “Curse of the Black Pearl,” it holds a place in my heart and is a fun and visually impressive film even by today’s standards, but the “Pirates” series has continued to get more convoluted and overstuffed with each progressive installment. It’s been six years since the last film and since then we now live in a world where there are seemingly superhero films every other week, so people no longer clamor for the spectacle and scope that this franchise once delivered. Still, despite all odds and literally almost no one asking for it, “Dead Men Tell No Tales” is a very fun, visually impressive blockbuster that is honestly the best of the franchise since the original.


Johnny Depp was really only known for indie films when he was cast as Jack Sparrow but after “Black Pearl” was released it not only thrust him into stardom and nabbed him his first Oscar nomination but also created one of the most distinguishable characters in modern cinema. The character has gotten more cartoonish and less clever with each film, but Depp and the writers tone it back a bit in “Dead Men.” Sparrow doesn’t feel the need to chew scenery and say a punchline at the end of every sentence, and even if he’ll never recapture the surprising magic he found in 2003, it’s fun to see Depp under the hat and makeup of his most iconic character.


Javier Bardem is solid as the film’s antagonist, a Spanish naval captain who died at the hands of the Bermuda Triangle after falling into a trap set by a young Sparrow. Bardem chews scenery, growling and wheezing his way through each bit of dialogue, but as far as paycheck roles go it’s far from a sleepwalking performance. The character design is also cool, as Bardem and his crew take on the appearance of how they died; some of his ghost army don’t have legs or parts of their arms, and Bardem himself has flowing hair since he died underwater.


The action and set pieces here are as solid as they’ve ever been. From the colorful brick and clay buildings of the ports at St. Martin to ship battles in open oceans, it seems the directors tried to keep things as practical as possible and not feel the need to over-use CGI, something the last few films have fallen victim to.


The film’s biggest issue is the same as the previous three installments, albeit to a lesser degree, and that is its pacing and overabundance of characters. When Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) came back at the end of the second film it was a fantastic surprise and him being in the third film was fun. But he had no point of being in the fourth and has even less to do here, as is the case with a half dozen other characters. They just pad to the two-hour-plus runtime and make it feel much longer than it actually is.


“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” may not be a great movie, but it’s great fun. If you’re a fan of the series then you’ll absolutely enjoy it, and even if you haven’t truly liked a film since the first one then I think this recaptures some of the feel that one had. In an age where Disney puts all their efforts into Marvel and Star Wars, there’s something about their original tentpole franchise providing one final adventure that is comforting.


Critics Rating: 7/10

Walt Disney

Walt Disney

The Unfunny ‘Baywatch’ Isn’t Worth a Watch

Baywatch_posterStudios really need to stop trying to capture the “21 Jump Street” lightning in a bottle…


“Baywatch” is the R-rated big screen adaptation of the 1990s television series. Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron and Alexandra Daddario star as members of a Florida lifeguard team that find drugs on their beach and take it upon themselves to investigate. Priyanka Chopra, Kelly Rohrbach, Jon Bass and Ilfenesh Hadera also star as Seth Gordon directs.


Adapting old TV shows into movies is nothing new, and taking a premise of a series and turning it into an over-the-top PG-13 or R-rated romp isn’t revolutionary, either. But ever since “21 Jump Street” burst onto the scene in 2012, studios have been trying (and failing) to duplicate its commercial and critical success. Even two months ago we had “CHIPS,” an unfunny and mean spirited film based on the California cops show from 1980. This time, we have Paramount casting Zac Efron and The Rock and sinking $69 million (more on that insane budget in a second) into a property they think people will recognize, however what they fail to do is surround their attractive cast with anything funny or exciting to do.


I guess I’ll start with what little good there is. Most of the cast is solid and seem to turn in relatively committed performances; at least considering the material they were given. I’ve been an Efron apologist for years and the “Neighbors” films showed that the man can in fact be funny, and here he is intermediately amusing. Dwayne Johnson is as charmable as ever with his big muscles and even bigger smile, although he continues to choose projects that are undeserving of his talents. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (say that five times fast) is probably the film’s bright spot, starring as the cop who keeps having to remind Johnson and company to stay in their lane and let the actual police do their jobs. He reminded me of Bashir Salahuddin from “Snatched” because while he only has a few scenes, he leaves the biggest impression and I can’t wait to see him in more.


The rest of the cast members are solid enough, but the females are mainly here to look attractive in two-piece bathing suits and tight dresses (of which they succeed) and the men are just supposed to look stupid and/or have good bodies (which, again, job well done on that front).


Most everything else here is a mess. I loved Seth Gordon’s “Horrible Bosses,” it’s one of my favorite comedies of all-time, but his other films are stinkers. I’m not sure if he is a one-hit wonder or what, but the man doesn’t seem to know how to direct a scene (or a film for that matter) to have any sort of rhythm or flow, and as such sequences drag on for far too long. A good comedy knows its purpose and each line of dialogue exists simply to build to the punchline. Films like 2016’s “Ghostbusters” are sluggish and unfunny because of all the riffing and randomly inserted insults in conversation; it ruins any flow. “Baywatch” goes for the easy laugh more often than not, and when you can see a joke coming it lessens its impact.


And ok. So this film’s budget. Apparently this cost $69 million to produce. Ignoring that I am 100% convinced the actual budget was $70 million but the producers found a way to save $1 million just so their budget would read “69,” this film shouldn’t cost that much. Hell, it shouldn’t cost half that much. I know Johnson is the highest paid actor in Hollywood so his quote is around $15 million but this film looks like it was made in 2004 for $20 million. The greenscreen is awful and distracting (how hard would it be to shoot on location in an actual boat?) and the fightscenes are way too up close and shaky. “Deadpool” cost $58 million and we all saw how (relatively) polished that turned out to be.


Look, “Baywatch” isn’t good. For some, it may have a guilty-pleasure way about it and sure, there were a few members of my audience who were dying laughing and clapped when the credits started rolling. But even for me, who has a record of going easy on comedies and chuckled enough throughout this to not hate it, there isn’t enough here to recommend you even check this one on cable. I guess you could say this is one bay that ain’t worth watching…


Critics Rating: 4/10

Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures

‘Snatched’ is Just Funny Enough to Work

Snatched2017posterIt’s kind of funny this film comes out the same weekend as a (very bad) Guy Ritchie film, and he directed another movie called “Snatch…”

“Snatched” marks Amy Schumer’s second starring role on the big screen and features Goldie Hawn’s return to movies for the first time since 2002. The duo star as a mother and daughter who go on vacation in South America, only to be kidnapped and need to escape. Joan Cusack, Ike Barinholtz, Wanda Sykes and Christopher Meloni also star as Jonathan Levine directs.

I don’t mind Amy Schumer. I used to be a fan of her on the Comedy Central Roasts and her early standup, but like a lot of comedians (read: Kevin Hart) once she got big and made the transition into film and television, all her jokes become rinse and repeat of one another (not that I’m putting Schumer in the same breath as Kevin Hart as far as talent). I liked Schumer’s debut film “Trainwreck” (which she also wrote) and even if Schumer has been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately (blaming internet trolls for her awful standup special getting one-starred so much that Netflix actually changed their rating system), “Snatched” seemed funny enough. And it turns out, it is; it is literally funny enough.

What makes this film is its supporting cast. Ike Barinholtz (great in the “Neighbors” films) and Bashir Salahuddin (a “Late Night” writer who doesn’t even have his own Wikipedia page) have fantastic chemistry as Hawn’s agoraphobic son and the Embassy officer. Their back-and-forth is by far the best aspect of the film, and I really hope to see Salahuddin in more things as soon as possible. Wanda Sykes (always welcome) has a few great lines, too, including one that is in the trailer which makes me laugh every time I hear it.

Schumer and Hawn are both fine, but their roles could have been played by anyone. It isn’t as awkward or forced a relationship as Melissa McCarthy and Susan Sarandon in “Tammy,” but outside a few scenes the two never really share much chemistry. Schumer does her vulgar jokes (albeit toned-down from her usual shtick) and Hawn jumps between enjoying acting again and simply reciting dialogue.

The script, written by Katie Dippold, is probably the film’s weakest point. First things first, the plot isn’t that original; we’ve all seen the “American tourists get kidnapped in a foreign country” thing before. Also, much like Dippold’s other works (“The Heat” and “Ghostbusters”) the film has randomly inserted lines that act as punchlines. When they land, they’re funny; when they don’t, things get awkwardly quiet in the theater.

Despite only running a little over 90 minutes, the film feels longer but for the most part never drags. Editor Zeke Baker (best known for doing a lot of Seth Rogen’s films) has a knack for knowing how long to keep a scene going for before it begins to get overlong or repetitive, and even if the climax feels abrupt, this is a breezy enough film.

There really isn’t much to “Snatched.” While there were no laugh-out-loud moments, I found myself chuckling quite a bit, and even if the mother-daughter dynamic didn’t quite win me over in the film, my own mother enjoyed herself while watching it, as did I. What I’m getting at is this: if you just want to laugh, and plot and creativity aren’t high on your list of demands, then this is worth a view.

Critics Rating: 6/10


More Like ‘King Arthur: Legend of the Snore’

King_Arthur_LotS_posterWhat just happened?

“King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” stars Charlie Hunnam as the titular character, and follows his origin story of finding the sword Excalibur and stopping the warlord who killed his father. Jude Law, Djimon Hounsou and Eric Bana also star as Guy Ritchie directs.

There are flashes of fun and inventiveness sporadically sprinkled throughout this film. When Arthur and his friends are riffing with a member of the King’s army, the editing and script are fast paced and enjoyable as they recount how they spent their morning. It’s clearly a Ritchie scene and is by far my favorite moment of the film. The smaller, human interactions where characters are just talking and the film is based in reality are where the script is at its most natural, and I wish there were more instances of this being a 5th century period piece instead of a magical fantasy.

When Arthur finally learns how to wield the sword the effects are pretty cool, with time slowing down and Arthur slicing through bad guys with CGI ease. However that is really the only time the supernatural aspects of the film work. In every other instance involving magic, the scenes range from “that was dumb” to “what the actual heck is happening?” Arthur has to go on a “spirit quest” to fight his inner demons and the reasons and rules of the scene are never explained. There is a mage who can control animals with her mind and it is just a lazy get out of jail free card for the writers when they had no other ideas how to resolve a conflict. And then there is the film’s climax.

Everything was going fine enough as we approached the final act. I wasn’t quite bored and there had been enough enjoyable moments that I felt I was going to be able to give this a passable grade; but then the last 20 minutes happened. I won’t spoil it in case you go against my opinion and still wish to see this, but the final act of this film is nothing short of nonsensical, loud, dark and stupid. There is no tension, no enjoyment and nothing feels earned or even makes sense. It is like “Warcraft” had some stock footage left over and Guy Ritchie decided to throw it in his movie; in fact the entire third act was like watching someone else playa  video game, which is only fun for about five minutes.

The performances are all fine, although I couldn’t tell you the name of a single character not named Arthur, much less their motivations. And no one chews scenery or goes so over-the-top that they’re so awful that they’re stupidly enjoyable. The film looks solid enough, with the production design of 5th century England with its decadent castles, foggy mountains and dusty brothels all putting you in the time period.

“King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” is a disappointment, mainly because Guy Ritchie has a track record of making films that are at the very least enjoyable. Here, his editing is confusing, his narrative is sloppy and his inability to decide whether he wants to make an epic fantasy adventure or a boots-on-the-ground knight’s tale creates a mess in tones. If you are a turn-your-brain-off kinda moviegoer you may get some in-the-moment thrills, but for anyone else I really think you’d be better served saving your time and money.

Critics Rating: 4/10

king arthur

It’s Perplexing How Bad ‘The Circle’ Is

The_Circle_(2017_film)This may be the first ever movie where literally nothing happens.

“The Circle” stars Emma Watson as a young girl who joins a tech company that wants to put cameras everywhere in the world. I really wish I could give more of a plot summary than that, but as I said above: this movie isn’t really about anything. Tom Hanks and Patton Oswald star as the founders of the company and John Boyega is also in it for a minute. James Ponsoldt directs.

Once or twice a year, I randomly pick a movie that I am going to go in with no preconceived notions about; this means I don’t watch any trailers or read any reviews. I chose “The Circle” as one of these films and walked in not knowing much beyond “Emma Watson joins a tech company run by Tom Hanks.” Upon actually seeing “The Circle” I can’t tell you much more about it than it is Emma Watson joining a tech company run by Tom Hanks.

First things first, the script is awful. Based on a book by Dave Eggers, Eggers co-wrote the screenplay with director Ponsoldt. So you have the man who wrote the original work and the person in charge of translating it to the screen, yet somehow their screenplay lacks any vision or coherency. The basic rule of screenwriting is “show don’t tell,” meaning you should have actions explain motivations and feelings, not dialogue. The film abandons this basic principle and decides to have each “character” (I’m using that term liberally because no one is fleshed out) tell the audience what is happening and how they feel; every person a walking exposition machine and none act like real humans.

Emma Watson has never been accused of being a great actress but here she is extra stale and deprived of charismatic as our lead. She is unchanged from the opening shot of the film to the last scene, and it can be argued she actually isn’t even a protagonist worth rooting for. Tom Hanks is implied to be the film’s antagonist, but it is really just because he’s the CEO of a big social media conglomerate and that’s the stigma we hold upon people in those positions. He never does anything evil or make us hope Watson takes him down, and you can tell Hanks is trying his hardest to give his character *something* to do/be.

Ellar Coltrane, best known for starring over a decade in “Boyhood,” is Watson’s childhood friend (I think? It’s truly never fleshed out) and he is truly awful. His dialogue isn’t helping, but his delivery is atrocious and awkward, and had the audience in unintended laughter. The film also features Bill Paxton in his final career role (the only thing this film will ever be remembered for) and he is sympathetic as Watson’s sick father in his few scenes.

Even if we had interesting characters, they wouldn’t have anything to do. There isn’t anything resembling conflict or tension through the entire film, with only one scene in the entire film actually resulting in something resembling consequence, and even that feels unearned because of how ludicrous and unrealistic it is.

Even the editing is subpar. The film as a whole drags, with the runtime clocking in at less than two hours but you feel every second of it. Some of the way scenes are spliced together are also awkward, especially one where Watson and a friend are having a conversation in two different bathroom stalls but the camera is framed at the same angle for both women so every time is cuts back and forth it is jarring.

The one thing the film has going for it is its concept. Although the “Big Brother is always watching you” idea is about five years too late to be sci-fi and is now pretty much an accepted reality, the film does make a few good points about how willing people are to sacrifice privacy for convenience, and that maybe the tech companies don’t have our best interest at heart. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

“The Circle” is more boring than it is bad. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a good movie, but at least it seems the people involved were trying; this isn’t an Adam Sandler joint. Unfortunately, their efforts are nowhere near enough to make this watchable. Not as enjoyable as a Periscope feed and featuring less drama than your aunt getting in a political argument on Facebook, “The Circle” is a square.

Critics Rating: 2/10


‘Power Rangers’ is Pretty Stupid but also Pretty Fun

Power_Rangers_(2017_Official_Theatrical_Poster)The same weekend that “CHIPS” shows us exactly how not to remake an old TV show into a modern movie, this one gets it pretty right.


“Power Rangers” is a reboot of the famed 90s series of the same name, and features the colorful superhero team discovering their powers and teaming up to take on the evil witch, Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks). Bryan Cranston stars as the team’s alien leader as Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Becky G and Ludi Lin star as the Rangers. Dean Israelite directs.


Growing up I wasn’t big into the Power Rangers but my cousins were obsessed with them so I caught some episodes here and there. There’s been talk of a series reboot for years, with this rendition finally getting the greenlight in 2014. When the trailer came out I was a little skeptical, as it featured a seemingly out-of-place Kanye West song, conflicting tones and looked like “Chronicle,” “Fantastic Four” and “Transformers” had a love child. The finished product is a little bit like the trailers, because its tone is all over the place and the film never really separates itself from other blockbuster films, but it’s a pretty fun ride that does a decent job paying homage to the source material.


All five “kids” who portray the Power Rangers (they’re all 20-somethings playing high schoolers) do a great job and have solid chemistry together. The standouts are Naomi Scott and RJ Cyler, who portray the Pink and Blue Rangers, respectively.  Scott is the pretty and misunderstood girl with a secret she wants to keep buried and just like the original Pink Ranger Amy Jo Johnson, I’m sure Scott is destined to become every boy’s crush from the series. Cyler’s Billy Cranston is autistic, marking the first superhero on the spectrum (if you don’t count Ben Affleck from “The Accountant”). Cyler has some great moments of awkward humor and provides the film with its greatest emotional scenes, too. The rest of the Rangers do a good job for what they have to, although Becky G and Ludi Lin (Yellow and Black) both feel like underdeveloped afterthoughts compared to the other three.


The film takes a lot of time training the Rangers and not having them actually in their colored spandex, and while this was a flaw in the painfully boring “Fantastic Four,” here it (usually) isn’t that bad. The group has some witty and organic banter and the training montages are entertaining enough, thanks in large part to the Bill Hader-voiced robot, Alpha-5. Bryan Cranston also adds gravitas as the leader of the Rangers, although he is a motion-captured face on the wall and surely did this for a relatively easy paycheck.


Which brings us to Elizabeth Banks as the film’s villain, Rita Repulsa (the name alone can’t be taken seriously). Banks is hamming it up so much, and giving such a scene-chewing, campy performance that every scene she is in comes across as awkward. Some may be willing and able to enjoy her intentionally bad performance, but when the rest of the film is going for a relatively grounded and somewhat dark and moody take on the Rangers, having her be a cartoon just doesn’t work. It’s also worth noting that every scene Rita is in is played out like a horror film (also tonally conflicting) and there were kids in my theater who were vocally telling their parents they were scared, so keep that in mind if you’re trying to entertain your children with this one.


The film also drags in some points and where they chose to implement the trademark “go go, Power Rangers!” song is very out-of-place (catching onto the trend?).


“Power Rangers” could’ve been a trainwreck but it manages to be better than a lot of TV-to-movie adaptions, even if it doesn’t break any new ground. Fans of the original series and average moviegoers alike should be entertained, and I’d say there’s enough fun here to be worth you to go go to a theater and check it out.


Critics Rating: 6/10



‘Logan’ a Depressing, Bloody Sendoff

Logan_2017_posterI’m all for trying to shake up the typical superhero formula, but there has to be some sort of a means to an end…


“Logan” marks the ninth and final time of Hugh Jackman playing everyone’s favorite clawed X-Man, and this time he must escort Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and a young mutant (Dafne Keen) from Texas to the Canadian border. Richard E. Grant, Boyd Holbrook and Stephen Merchant also star as James Mangold returns to direct.


“X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” Jackman’s first solo outing as the character in 2009, was botched on almost every front (except for his performance) and is often cited as one of the worst superhero films ever made. His second attempt in 2013, “The Wolverine,” faired a better, with the Japanese and samurai mythos really carrying the film until it betrayed its tone with a cartoony climax. This time around, thanks to the success of R-rated “Deadpool” last February, Jackman got his R-rated swansong; it’s just a shame we aren’t ending things on better terms.


On a technical level, there isn’t much wrong with “Logan.” It looks good, with settings ranging from dusty, sun-soaked Texas to lush, green North Dakota, and for the most part the action is captured well by cinematographer John Mathieson. Mangold and company take advantage of the R rating and don’t shy away from Logan eviscerating henchmen left and right. There are some points where the action does get extra-bloody and they overcompensate, like showing a man get decapitated and having his bloody head roll around. It’s almost as if to make up for the past 17 years of us having to use our imaginations as to what happens when a man with claws impales a human.


Jackman portrays Logan at his most broken-down and vulnerable we’ve ever seen him, although at some points it is hard to see where Jackman’s take on the character ends and his own exhaustion of the role begins. No one is questioning his dedication to the character that he will forever be synonymous with, however there are times throughout the film it appears he is simply going through the motions, which may not even entirely be his fault, as stepping to the same shoes for almost two decades may make putting on that façade second nature.


There are some attempts at humor, and a lot of them do hit thanks to Patrick Stewart’s dry British wit, Jackman’s growling delivery or newcomer Dafne Keen’s nuanced actions, even if it is at the expense of creating a slightly-tonally confused narrative.


Which brings me to my biggest gripe about “Logan” and that is its tone and delivery of its story. Like I started off with, I have no problem with films trying to reinvent the wheel of their respective genre, so that “Logan” wants to be a gritty, grim and realistic take on one of the more tortured souls of the comic book world is fine with me. However the pacing of the story is equally as bleak, with the action all too often not coming across as fun and more so as numbing, and the character moments, as well-acted as they are, feel weary.


“Logan” is made with the best intentions and diehard fans of the character and comics will find more to love in here than the casual filmgoer, but otherwise the film is a letdown, and drags for many portions throughout. If this truly is Hugh Jackman’s final bow as the character of Wolverine then he deserved better, but just as the film strives to tell us: no matter how dark and unsatisfying the world is, you just have to keep on grinding along.

Critics Rating: 5/10

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

‘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