November to Remember

Screen Shot 2016-10-30 at 9.46.04 PM.png
There is a heavenly experience up top and a hellish experience at the bottom.

 

Some Studio Information: The more you know

If there in anytime for a movie critic and a casual goer to go to the movies it is the months of November to December for two reasons:

  1. People have holidays during this time and movie studios know that we are more likely to spend money. In other words, studios put on their biggest blockbuster movies that they know are good and cost a hell of a lot of money to make. This gives them a sizable profit
  2. Award ceremonies like the Academy Awards are up and around the corner. Studios decide to release their most compelling works at this time. Is is so award voters have these spectacular movies fresh in their minds by voting time.

For reason one, that is why last year movies like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Spectre and Mockingjay were released

And is it a coincidence that movies like Brooklyn, The Revenant, The Big Short, Creed, Joy, Anomalisa, and Room were all released during that time of the year? I don’t think so.

November to Remember: A Commemoration

In commemoration for this time of the year, I am going to review one movie per day. All these movies were past releases in 2016 that I had missed that were either critically acclaimed or critically panned. The idea being that the movies are either so good or so bad that I won’t be able to forget it. Oh and also I will be reviewing movies that are coming around during the month of November.

That way it will be a November to Remember.

The Schedule

For the first week will be commemorating the event of Halloween so expect to see some good and bad thrillers/horror movies in this box.

1/11/16: 10 Cloverfield Lane

2/11/16: Green Room

3/11/16: Cabin Fever

4/11/16: The Conjuring 2

5/11/16: Ouija Origin of Evil

6/11/16: The Accountant

7/11/16: Hacksaw Ridge

The second-week will cover some comedies. Some that are comedies and others that are alleged comedies

8/11/16: Everybody Wants Some!!!

9/11/16: Cafe Society

10/11/16: Hunt for the Wilderpeople

11/11/16: Amateur Night

12/11/16: Norm of the North

13/11/16: Arrival

14/11/16: Fifty Shades of Black

 

The Third Week will consist of a lot of interesting movies in general

15/11/16: Tale of Tales

16/11/16: When Marnie was There

17/11/16: The Fifth Wave

18/11/16: Criminal

19/11/16: Where to Invade Next

20/11/16: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

21/11/16: Maggie’s Plan

 

The Final days will consist of the best of the best

22/11/16: Trumbo

23/11/16: (I don’t know yet. I’ll think of something)

24/11/16: Hell or High Water

25/11/16: The Founder

26/11/16: Bad Santa 2

27/11/16: Eye in the Sky

28/11/16: The Lobster

29/11/16: Son of Saul

30/11/16: Room

Obviously, the schedule is subject to change. There is a lot of shifting gears. I have prewritten a fair few of them but not all. If I happen to see a film that blows me away it will be moved into the final week of course 🙂

And that is pretty much it.

 

 

Advertisements

Dr. Strange Review

 

doctor-strange-poster

Written by Nelson Cumming

Mr. Benedict Cumberbatch has brought his a-game (as he usually does) in Dr. Strange and he is not the only one. There are other actors and filmmakers who also try to trump him. Some of them succeeded, but the thing that works about Dr. Strange is that it wasn’t every person for themselves. It was a movie where everyone working on it were a unit with the goal to make something great and they passed the bar.

Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a masterful neurosurgeon who, after a car accident, loses full usage of his hands. He travels to Nepal hoping that women will restore his hands. That woman is Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) who knows how to restore his hands through spiritual and mental healing. She can also conjure magic and travel to different dimensions. After a terrible first impression from Dr.Strange, Ancient One reluctantly agrees to teach him the art of her powers. Little does Dr. Strange know that he is being trained to help stop an evil power set to destroy reality.

A Contribution Is A Contribution No Matter How Small

It’s just so great to see a huge blockbuster movie that didn’t clash due to egos (well, except for Cumberbatch’s character of course). I could tell that despite all the money that was poured into Dr. Strange, everyone knew their roles, their artistic freedoms, and limitations and used their tools effectively. Watching it, it felt like the whole was better than the sum of its parts.

Let me elaborate. Tilda Swinton plays a supporting role as Ancient One. She balances her character out with toughness, humility, fairness and a pinch of humor. She plays as the mentor of Dr. Strange. Swinton know that all she can do is support and she does it. The scriptwriters made her the wise person who always knew what to say. While that worked for the most part, she kept pontificating scenes with the philosophical one-liners during important and poignant scenes. I believe any movie should be a show-me medium instead of a tell-me medium. The great thing is that Swinton was so good that it barely mattered.

If movies are a show me medium then the special effects more than help that viewpoint. Every dollar spent on special effects is on the screen. They had no limits in that department and it shows. As Doctor Strange delves into various places and dimensions, the special effects are there to reflect that. They are colorful, psychedelic, abstract and vibrant. There are moments in those scenes that were directly inspired from Inception but boy was it beautiful. It’s a movie where you can put it on Imax because the visuals are so colourful and easy to look at.

Oh and I seem to have forgotten someone… oh yeah Benedict Cumberbatch. That guy was made for the role. Cumberbatch looks like him and knows how to speak fluently and with high-order language (he is the guy who plays the title character in Sherlock after all). I don’t know if this was intentional but I noticed he reduced the tremors in his hands as the movie went on. If that was intentional, that was some awesome, minute, fine-tuned detail.

Just watching this movie was a pleasure, especially the visual effects. Doctor Strange just felt vibrant and full of life and has an interesting story that you don’t hear too often (except maybe in the sci-fi genre). It is one of those blockbusters that is guaranteed to make at least $700 million. I just know it. In a month call me out if I am somehow wrong. It’s another success in the Marvel Catalogue ****1/4

Masterminds Review

masterminds-official-poster-1

Written by Nelson Cumming

I am not a dead-inside film critic when I say Masterminds is unfunny and forgettable. I was watching Masterminds with around thirty people who were trying very hard to have a good time and find the movie funny. For the first thirty minutes, there were half-hearted chuckles and then there was complete silence. It’s an eerie, sad experience when it happens to comedies.

The whole story revolves around David (Zack Galifianakis) who works driving armored trucks filled with money. David has fallen in love with a new co-worker (Kristin Wiig) and she has friends (including Owen Wilson) who want to rob millions of dollars and she manipulates David to do be a part of the robbery. They soon double cross David once the robbery is done. David has to avoid a hit man (Jason Sudeikis) and law enforcement to get his revenge.

You can tell the scriptwriting is so bad that stars like Zack Galifianakis, Kristin Wiig, Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis and Kate McKinnon cannot make the material funny. Sudeikis and McKinnon get it the worst. I felt sad for them on what they had to do.

McKinnon plays a stereotypically dumb redneck blonde who is David’s fiancee and she deliberately made her facial expressions look mechanically fake. It was just looked so weird. What’s even worse is Sudeikis, who plays a hit man sent to kill David, Galifianakis’ character. All he added was a layer of comedic awkwardness on material that just failed to land.

What is also not believable is the storytelling. To advance the story you have to believe the main characters are impossibly dumb. There is also a massive eye rolling moment when you realize that the assassin sent to kill Galifianakis stops his plan when he realized that Galifianakis is his brother. It’s almost akin to Batman vs. Superman when Batman stops fighting Superman when Superman says his mother’s name.

Masterminds is the comedic film where nothing works. The overuse of slapstick doesn’t work, the dialogue doesn’t work nor do the characters have the chemistry to make what little they had funny. Although the characters and their motives are entirely believable in the movie’s internal logic, very little laughs materialized from the audience. At least Masterminds was not boring.

When I left Masterminds I left with the most positive bad reaction. I just said “Well that sucked” in a care-free way. It’s not boring, nor is it hateful. It’s kinda messy but coherent enough to not make me lose complete faith. Most importantly, it’s just not that funny *1/2

Deepwater Horizon Review

 

Written by Nelson Cumming

I originally didn’t care about seeing Deepwater Horizon until a friend recommended it to me and when I learned about the subject matter. I’m glad I listened and learned. Learning is good. Listening is good. Everything is good. There are good performances, tension, and explosions. Yes, you heard me, explosions. I praised explosions.

Well, explosions are what you expect when you mix gallons and gallons of crude oil spurting out at high pressure with a single spark. This movie is based on the true story of the BP oil spill and the majority of the story consists of the workers trying to escape the oil rig that’s burning down in front of them.

Explosions, Explosions, Explosions

To elaborate on the explosions I believe they helped add narrative stakes to the story. In other words, I believed in the threat of death that the majority of characters are trying to avoid. There are about twenty to thirty minutes of explosions during the narrative climax. That’s enough to make Michael Bay jealous expect that in Deepwater Horizon, the explosions served a purpose.

Dedicated Cinematography

What I also cannot believe is the effort a cinematographer called Enrique Chediak does. He is doing long shots of the oil rig and spins the camera nearly 360 degrees around the large area, he gets the low angle close-up shots of the workers being flung around the room like a ragdoll, he also gets into the ocean and shoots footage of the pipes from the inside struggling to handle the pressure. He was awesome.

A Trinity of Good Acting

The other thing I have to compliment on is the performances of Mark Whalberg, Kurt Russell, and John Malkovich. Whalberg plays his role as the hero with determination, knowledge and empathy for his workers; Russell is the Commander in Chief and he is just a legitimate tough guy when you see what he does under adversity and Malkovich is good at playing the cringeworthy, bad guy. Malkovich plays a BP worker.

There is great chemistry with Malkovich and Russell. You need to see the political game Malkovich tries to play and how much Russell tries to relent. Russell’s reaction to Malkovich when he realizes he caused the explosion was the best part of the story. After all the business pressure and the physical damage, you fully realize Russell is the Winner and Malkovich is the loser. The performances were not Oscar worthy but they were admirable.

Minor Criticisms: I am Picky

Despite all this praise, the movie did have a lot of little problems. Most of which happened in the first quarter The dialogue for the first 20 minutes was boring to say the least and the foreshadowing scenes were so obvious that I nearly felt patronized. They were little things but a lot of them were only mildly annoying like the feeling you get when a fly is buzzing around you constantly. At least it wasn’t as painful as a slap to the face or a kick to the crotch.

Does Deepwater Horizon match up to a lot of the great disaster movies I have seen in recent years: No. Does Deepwater Horizon leave me happy to have seen it: Yes ***1/2

The Magificent Seven Review

magnificant-7

Written by Nelson Cumming

Get ready of some inception-like philosophy here folks. The Magnificent Seven is a remake of a remake of a remake. 2016 has been a year of sequels and remakes and The Magnificent Seven is the most remakest- remake of the year. If you have seen a western (or better yet a movie) you have seen this movie. Despite that, The Magnificent Seven delivers a basic minimum requirement for a casual viewer to enjoy.

The premise will be familiar to any western fan as it involves a bad guy Bartholomew Bourke (Peter Sarsgaard) taking over a town called Rose Creek. Motivated by a very hefty payment, Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington) a bounty hunter, aims to usurp Bourke and restore Rose Creek to its people. Chisolm realizes that he cannot take over without a little help. So recruit six others to make up The Magnificent Seven.

The first third: A slog

Like The Hateful Eight, The Magnificent Seven starts off very slow. Aside from the first scene where Bourke takes Rose Creek by storm, the narrative pacing is slow and plodding. This section what I like to call “the recruitment section” where Chisolm recruits the six other protagonists who are followed by Emma Cullen Haley Bennett, the girl who hires them.

The dialogue in this section does not help. The dialogue consists of same lines you hear from any other western. When Chisolm asks Cullen when she makes the killer proposal if she is doing this for revenge she responds “I seek righteousness. But I will go for revenge”. Who expected a Catholic girl in the west in the 19th century to say that!

To Movie Studios: Fix The Southern Accent Please

After seeing such movies as The Hateful Eight, The Revenant and now The Hateful Eight. I have to say that I cannot hear a lot of dialogue that is spoken in a thick southern accent. I strain my ears trying to decipher the words. Then after a while, I think “stuff it” and make assumptions of the dialogue based the characters and the context.

To actors and studios around the world: If you want to create a memorable character or a character that has real meaning, make sure they speak well enough so we understand them. I talked to a ton of people about Tom Hardy in The Revenant and a lot of them didn’t know what he was saying.
I didn’t know what half the people were saying The Magnificent Seven due to their thick southern accents. Please fix that accent Hollywood.

The Actions Spoke Louder than the Words

After the poor start, The Magnificent Sever gets better as the action scenes were entertaining. At least with The Magnificent Seven, all seven members were working together to help defend prepare for a gigantic enemy onslaught. They try to teach the civilians their combat skills and prepare traps. Think of it like Home Alone except on a macro level and without the comedy (which is a good thing)

The action sequences were a ton of gunfight with lots of different gimmicks from the seven to keep the action from becoming monotonous. One of them is a native American who shoots arrows, another is an Asian American who fights with knives and another just likes to bludgeon people but the violence is not too graphic or bloody

Despite the length of the action sequences, none of them drag out. I have to applaud the filmmakers and set designers for that. Different people with different places with different weapons with various outcomes keep the sequences interesting.

Overall, The Magnificent Seven is not a poor remake but not is it a great one. A lot of things in this movie I have seen many times before and there were very few things that felt fresh and inventive. It is a mildly entertaining carbon copy of the originals but it is a carbon copy of the mass produced line nonetheless. I did not feel ripped off, but nor did I feel there was a reason for this remake to exist **3/4

Storks Movie Review

 

storks-posterWritten by Nelson Cumming

Storks is one of the films that is scattershot (throwing things at the walls and seeing what sticks) but works. It has enough humor and heart to make it likable. This is a departure from the normal material of adult raunch comedies from director Nicholas Stoller but it never has a “first-time director” feel to it which is a plus. He juggles the material not so smoothly but gets the job done nonetheless

The film is all about storks who are birds who delivered babies to aspiring parents and it is run like a manufacturing business- you know, the kind of thing you believe as a kid where babies come from. Well that used to be the case until there was a stork that was over passionate about the baby and accidently broke the tracking device that contained the address to the baby’s family

18 years later the business model has completely changed and the factory no longer makes and delivers babies but they deliver all sorts of items that is run like a Fed-ex factory. Junior (Andy Samberg) is a carrier ambitious bird, climbing the corporate ladder and is about to take over the factory from his smug and arrogant boss (Kelsey Grammer). The baby is now a teenager called Tulip who is the only human and is a little clumsy. The boss makes a deal with Junior: Fire Tulip and gets promoted to “boossssss”

The problem is that Tulip accidently starts up the baby making part of the factory and a letter comes from a kid called Nate who longs for a baby brother who has “lots of ninja skills” because his parents are too busy with their home business to take care of him. So the story then becomes Junior and Tulip trying to deliver the baby to Max

Storks is funny in odd and weird ways

To describe how the filmmakers try to make Storks funny would take awhile because there isn’t a cohesive direction in the comedy but it strangely works here. There are adult comedy elements but there are no sexual jokes. There are business jokes that any adult could relate to, yet there are gags that were so overly childish that I couldn’t believe I laughed at. There are several gags with wolves and let’s just say “their methods of transportation” that had me laughing.

This is a film where the comedy is both rooted in reality and fantasy and darts in, out and around the two. You have to be willing to go from understanding the logic the movie creates to completely suspending disbelief to capture the movie’s zaniness. If you need a little consistency and logic in the humor then this is probably not for you.

Despite these lack of consistent brand of humor Storks is witty enough with good charact development between Tulip and Junior. This is a decently fun movie where a lot of things work in the unclear direction ***3/4