Movie Reviews – Previous Years

Arrival (PG-13)
“Flimsy reveal.”

That’s what I thought to myself at end of the critically acclaimed film, Arrival. Not sure why the critics are all gushing over this film about 12 alien ships that hover 30’ above multiple continents without revealing why there are there. The movie is as methodical as it is slow, and full of dreamy flashback nonsense between the scenes of linguists and scientists playing word charades with these creatures behind their protective glass.

That last sentence was a mouthful, and they spend nearly two hours milking that last sentence for all it’s worth. And the inside of those awesome ships is the most bland set piece in alien movie history. Basically a white movie screen – exactly like the one you sit in front of to watch this lame film, but without the theater’s 100 seats, wall sconce lighting, fancy carpeting and painted walls. No, this ship has none of that. Just a white space behind glass, and nothing else. If you think I’m kidding, look at the photo used for this review.

Can’t give away the reveal, but you likely won’t be impressed – if you stay awake long enough to finish it while sitting on your comfortable sofa. This is one to watch at home . . . if you really want to.
– Wait for HBO

The Accountant (R)
I’m sure that the top 10,000 scientists, researchers and accountants in the world all use computer spreadsheets when analyzing large amounts of complex data spanning 15 years. Einstein would’ve done the same if computers had been around in his day. But if you are making a Hollywood movie it’s time to have the modern otherworldly accountant spend the night writing out his findings (in the form of simple digits) all over the walls and massive glass doors of the conference room, to the point of exhausting numerous magic markers, to visually impress all those that see it.

Ben Affleck plays Christian Wolff, that otherworldly accountant who began life as an autistic child who was a savant with numbers. The kind of numerical genius that puts together a hundred piece puzzle within minutes, backwards, with the flat gray backing of the pieces upward and the picture of the puzzle facing down toward the table. He is so world renowned at uncooking books that the most ruthless cartels around the world hire him to find out where their money is really going.

If that were not enough, he was also brought up to focus on firearm marksmanship and physically taking down bad guys. And with his autistic bend, head shots don’t faze him – like a human version of a Terminator. That DNA is what you call Hollywood gold.

Anna Kendrick comes in as the female interest. I suppose she has made her mark with the Perfect Pitch movies and has newfound clout in Hollywood. I’ve never seen the Perfect Pitch movies but she doesn’t do much of anything special here so I’ll just blame it on poor casting for this role.

Affleck plays the role of savant accountant well, and the film is engaging. But by the third and final act it seems apparent that the story is so overly complex that we have long scenes of dialogue between characters simply to explain things to themselves as well as the viewing audience. JK Simmons plays a Treasury Crime Enforcement official who has such a long and twisted story to tell that we have to watch that scene multiple times as he retells it in the background. It’s a time constraint, weak script cheat that makes the film less fluid than it should be.

In the end it’s a bit of a mess. But as a rental – it would work.
– Wait for Rental

Deepwater Horizon (PG-13)
Stars Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, John Malkovich and Kate Hudson.

We all remember the 2010 story of the massive accident and subsequent oil spill from BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig. Some may even remember the images shown on TV of the platform burning. What no one on land saw, and what no one would want to experience in person is what happens at the moment when it all goes wrong. Like the slow motion death grip when the train just starts to come off the tracks around a bend. Like the feeling you get when working at Chernobyl as you realize the gauges and dials are starting to get away from you. Those are moments that few people experience – and live to tell about it.

No doubt Hollywood salivated over this particular oil rig disaster opportunity for years. The whole event was a slow train wreck just itching for a film adaptation. There is no theater big and loud enough to properly depict the reality of what the people on that rig saw, heard and felt that day. But the resulting effort is why a theater is the best way to see this film.

Forget the political side of the story. Hollywood needs a clear villain to fault. It’s easy to paint BP as the bad guys but the reality is that Transocean was just as liable as BP for the long list of mistakes and shortcomings that day. And the polluting oil spill tragedy is another movie for another time. The paying audience is in it for the experience of being on a massive oil platform in the middle of the ocean. What’s that like? And from the comfort of our air-conditioned theater seats, we want to know what it was like to be on that one platform on that unfortunate day when all hell broke loose as ungodly amounts of oil and methane gas accidentally surged upward, unrestricted, from the seabed nearly a mile below, only to be ignited by machinery to create a fiery bomb from hell.

It will shock you. And it’s not over in an instant. The Horizon was a massive platform (it was 36 hours before it sank). As the oil continued to surge, the fires and explosions spread to new areas of the rig. It’s a white knuckle ride and a show worth experiencing in the biggest, baddest theater in your town
– See it on the Big Screen

Don't Breathe
Don’t Breathe (R)
The plot is a terrific idea for what should be a great movie. But for the Jay Leno fans out there, this movie will likely remind them of a segment Jay used to do on the Tonight Show called, “Stupid Criminals.”

The film has no real stars which is actually an asset for a story like this, set in downtrodden Detroit where some punk kids ransack houses by urinating on the floor, breaking things, and stealing whatever they can carry. Hollywood likes to make sure everyone in the audience knows who the real villains are so there is no gray area if any villains are severely punished or killed off. These kids steer clear of taking large amounts of cash as that would put them into a higher felony category. Whatever.

But for one last score (such a cliché plot device) the punks decide to hit the home of a blind Iraq war veteran who supposedly won a lawsuit when his daughter was killed, so he’s sitting on mega-thousands in cash. Why he keeps a mountain of cash in his slum-like house in a totally abandoned slum neighborhood instead of depositing the settlement check in a bank is just one of a mountain of questions.

Moving on . . .

So these punks know full well that they are dealing with a blind man who can hear perfectly well, yet they make as much noise as drunken college kids coming home after a frat party. They can’t keep their mouths shut, footsteps quiet, or act at all as if they understand the situation in any way. Sure, it ratchets up the suspense, but only because you’re watching three retards trying unsuccessfully to be quiet while robbing a house with the owner home. Once the blind man confronts the intruders you would think they would snap to their senses and begin to understand the dynamics around them.

When I was only six years old I fully understood how to be quiet when playing hide and seek, and I wasn’t even hiding from someone that wanted to shoot me to death if found. Factor in the fact that I can see and the seeker can’t and it turns into a boring game where they never, ever, find me!

These idiots have no concept of how to stay quiet, work as a team, throw something at the blind guy (anything, a fork, a lamp . . . here, let’s grab this sofa and toss it on him – he can’t see!) nor attack him whenever he’s preoccupied with other tasks like boarding up a window. Ever watch a blind guy noisily trying to board up a window to keep you in the house? Perhaps that’s a good time to attack him, huh?

When the blind man flips the breaker to bring the house to total darkness to even the odds, this band of idiots actually starts calling out to one another like a simpleton game of Marco Polo where the guy that’s “it” is armed with a gun and will shoot at anything that makes a sound. Even funnier, the punks must have forgotten to take their Ritalin because they refuse to stay put and instead stumble around with hands extended in the darkness, knocking things over and generally making more noise than at any other time in the house. Abbot and Costello would think this silly scene was a comedy written just for them as they were trying to avoid running into The Wolfman.

There are some great Cujo style jumps scares, but you’ll likely spend most of the movie putting yourself in their position and thinking about how you would easily survive the situation. And as you watch the screen you’ll think back to the Jay Leno days.

Stupid Criminals.
– Wait for Rental

Star Trek Beyond
Star Trek Beyond (PG-13)
Fans have yet another reason to venture back to the movie theater this summer to catch the latest in the Star Trek franchise. The same cast is back and again they quickly fall for a trap and are all but doomed. You’ve seen the Enterprise damaged in battles all too often before (shields are now down to 20%? So what’s new?) but nothing like this. Krall (angry villain) had obviously studied the Enterprise carefully in advance. If he had just directed his weapons at the Enterprise bridge instead of everywhere else the film would have been 10 minutes and he’d have won! Seems he’s cut from that same bolt of Bond villain cloth.

There’s no need for any further plot description. If you like Star Trek movies it’s exactly what you pay to see. Captain Kirk and his crew will beat the insurmountable odds by the skin of their teeth, otherwise the franchise would be over . . . and that can’t happen.

Note that as in past Trek films it’s always very convenient when they find themselves stranded on a planet that has perfectly breathable air, spring-like comfortable weather from a nice yellow star that is just the right distance and magnitude away, never too bright or too dim, with an atmosphere that is apparently disease-free and a gravitation that seems downright earth-like, with no indigenous insects or wild animals to worry about whatsoever. Amazing!

And for the first time ever the crew has seatbelts on the bridge, and they happily wear them for safety reasons. The funniest part is that the seatbelts are on a vintage Federation spacecraft which begs the question why they abandoned seatbelts on the newer ships?

But none of this matters a lick. If you like the cast in the current generation Trek films, this is right up your fun-adventure alley.
– See it on the Big Screen

Marauders (R)
Bruce Willis stars as a bank mogul in a crime drama mix of military rescue missions gone wrong, wild bank heists and FBI vs. local cop tensions. A lot going on here and there are so many characters in play that you’ll need the equivalent of a baseball team roster sheet to follow all the names and players. Good luck with that. I’m still not sure exactly how everything pieced together.

Willis is in surprisingly few scenes, but there is a lot of great acting here from everyone else. Couple that with some robbery scenes like you’ve never seen before and it will make for a solid rental. Some items stood out:

This movie is set in today’s world yet there is a lot of BlackBerry use going on. Watching someone listen to voicemails in a string one-at-a-time like it’s 2006 brings back painful, archaic memories. Does BlackBerry still not have Visual Voicemail? Good grief.

It’s like a tropical storm downpour throughout most of the outdoor shots which is strange for Cincinnati.

Like a lot of movies in this genre, the well-trained bad guys fire hundreds of rounds of automatic gunfire that would go through a car and yet there are very few casualties during a shoot-out in the lobby of a bank building.

In the end Hollywood decided to send this movie straight to video. It’s worth a rental.
– Wait for Rental

Our Kind Of
Out Kind of Traitor (R)
A married couple on their honeymoon finds themselves trapped between helping a Russian mob money launderer save his family and assisting England’s MI6 at the same time. The first scene would lead you to believe this will be a raunchy, violent film about the Russian mob. But instead you’ll find yourself engrossed in the steady if slow paced building of the suspense right up to the end.

The couple is a little too cold toward each other to be newlyweds (feels more like an arranged marriage) which is not a part of the story but certainly detracts from the believability on screen. Not that any of it is believable once you leave the theater and dissect it, but as a movie it works. Only in the movies can people with steady jobs suddenly leave for week-long vacations. He’s a college professor and she’s a lawyer. Those vocations don’t really allow much spur of the moment flexibility. You could argue that in Europe it’s more likely, but even the Russian mob is suspicious of their frequent vacations.

As with the married couple, the less you know about what is going on the better the film will play out. Also of note – we all know the Crosby, Stills and Nash song Marrakesh Express but this is the first time most of us will now identify Marrakesh with a location in a movie

– Wait for Rental

10 Cloverfield Lane
10 Cloverfield Lane (PG-13)
Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman star as bomb shelter survivors who have escaped certain death. At least that’s what Michelle (Winstead) is told over and over again once she regains consciousness after a car accident and finds herself chained to a wall in a bomb shelter. Even once freed from her chains, what if anything really lurks outside the bomb shelter doors? Was she really saved from doomsday or just merely captured for twisted reasons?

As with many suspense movies, the less you know going in, the better. The whole point of the movie is guessing what is a lie and what is fact. And as with any movie, any odd item shown to the audience, especially if an actor spends any precious film time describing it, that item will be an important part of the final act. (Jaws – “Be careful with those scuba tanks!!”)

However there is a critical line of dialogue that many may miss when watching this movie, and it may cause the viewer to feel the ending shows unrealistic human behavior. During a quiet discussion Michelle reveals that throughout her life when things get stressful, she runs. It’s a character trait that has always plagued her.

There are times when a smart person would just hunker down. Not Michelle. Like a Geico commercial, “If you’re Michelle – you run. It’s what you do!”

Now the ending won’t seem as ridiculous.
– Wait for Rental

The Witch
The Witch (R)
It was no fun being a pilgrim in the 1600s. That’s the first thing you will take away from this authentic but glacially-paced movie from newbie writer/director Robert Eggers. It’s not really a very scary tale with the most haunting theme being the Old-English 1600s vernacular that left “thine ears” unsure of the dialogue muttered by this bible reciting family of seven.

After being banished for religious reasons from the safety of their colonial plantation the family heads out on their own to find a new place to live. They choose a spot but the crops fail with winter approaching and as the theatrical trailer shows, their newborn son disappears into the woods. So we all become worried about what’s in those woods.

At one point the teenage daughter taunts her little sister by admitting she’s a witch who will do terrible things to her and anyone else she wants. It’s fine to kid around in today’s world (in some countries) but it’s a ridiculous scene for the 1600s when everyone feared being labeled a witch. Witches were quickly and mercilessly tortured and killed. To believe that any girl or woman would even kid about that in a world of Puritans where everyone had their religious knobs turned up to 11 is downright silly.

The final movie payoff is as weak as most films written by another writer, M. Night Shyamalan. If you decide to watch this movie it will be a godsend to use the subtitles feature on your TV so you can translate 1600 Puritan English.

– Wait for HBO

Deadpool (R)
If you were to put Schwarzenegger’s Last Action Hero idea in a blender with the Spider-Man idea and added 3 heaping tablespoons of powdered “bad taste & foul mouth” you would have a glassful of Deadpool. Whether or not you could sip on that flavor for 1:40 minutes, there is certainly wall-to-wall action going on at all times.

Ryan Reynolds stars as the wiseacre Marvel Comic Deadpool mercenary who is transformed into an ugly monster of a man that heals immediately no matter what awful things happen to him. The only downside to his incredible healing powers is that he’s ugly. Kind of a weak downside (there are a LOT of ugly people in the world who have zero superpowers) and that’s likely why few people have ever heard of the “Deadpool Marvel guy.”

As in Last Action Hero, people onscreen know they are in a movie and they talk to the audience as they go about their business. Odd, but it works well enough here. Reynolds skewers a lot of notable celebrities including himself with a seemingly endless supply of Hollywood lines to make us chuckle. Three quarters of them work and about a quarter of them leave the theater full of awkward silence that a TV sitcom laugh track usually fills.

This R rated movie is definitely not one for the kids, unless you’re a parent who has kids who swear freely at the dinner table or they listen as you do. From the audience in attendance around us there are apparently a lot of those families these days. No one walked out with their young children.

– Wait for Rental

Hunger Games Mockingjay 2
Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (PG-13)
This final chapter in this series is certainly better than Mockingjay Part 1, and it does tie the story up in a dark but otherwise satisfying way. And since they filmed this series of movies all at once we even get to see more acting by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Unlike the previous Mockingjay film there is plenty of action and expensive effects to keep the interest high throughout the 2:15 runtime. The fact that Katniss seems to have an endless supply of arrows in her quiver, many of which seem to explode on impact, certainly helps the film. And then there are the eyeless, sharp toothed, tunnel dwelling humanoids that we have seen in films before, but always seem effective. If you have seen the other Hunger Games movies you pretty much know what to expect. And you’ll see the shocking finale scene coming a mile away.

Some final notes:
Elizabeth Banks is wearing some crazy-unique decorative eyelashes that I expect Lady Gaga (or Elton John) to be sporting onstage ASAP.

In the Good News/Bad News department – Apparently in the distant future, TV images will magically pop up over any table in any room whenever a special bulletin or commercial is broadcast. But unfotunately the picture quality will be far worse than televsions of the 1960’s. So be careful falling for the 4K, 8K, 12K TVs they are always trying to sell you.
– See it on the Big Screen

Spectre (PG-13)
Daniel Craig is back as James Bond, another in a list of recent “agents” at the box-office that suddenly have to make themselves relevant in a world that no longer seems to need secret agents.

After sitting through the long series of previews for upcoming movies shown before this film, Hollywood is now officially out of new ideas. Or perhaps the young screenwriters working today simply don’t realize their ideas have already been made into films – twice before.

We all know what to expect with Bond films – martinis, exotic locations, exotic cars, unbelievable breathtaking stunts and sultry women who love to have sex with anyone wearing a holster or a black patch over one scarred eye. This film delivers the goods, but it would seem the Editor Union was on strike when this film was in the works. This film has a runtime of 2 hr. 30 min. and feels like 3 hours. A long 3 hours. The image I selected above is not action packed for a reason. Most of the movie is filled with dark slowly developing scenes like the one above. As long as you know that going in, you can make sure you are well rested before entering the theater.

This is a movie that you would not want to sit through twice. How many 007 films can you name that you wouldn’t watch twice?
– Wait for Rental


Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation (PG-13)
Ethan (Tom Cruise) is back as the leader of the IMF in another installment of Mission Impossible. Here again they want to dissolve the IMF organization (just like the IMF was dissolved in the MI Ghost Protocol film). It’s up to Ethan to prove his theories about a Syndicate Organization are true (as a rogue agent) to make the IMF relevant again.

But that’s just storyline to get us into the theater to watch what we paid for in any Mission Impossible or Bond film. Stunts, wild chases through the streets, hot women who tend to fight, and witty lines spoken all around. They got most of it right. Holding onto the side of a cargo plane as it takes off is a hell of a stunt. The motorcycle chase scene alone is worth the price of admission. Rebecca Ferguson is really hot and fights like an agile, pissed off biker chick. And there are some funny lines, but too much of a Shaun of the Dead/Hot Fuzz attempt at humor (blame Simon Pegg for that) which doesn’t belong in the film.

This is a solid summer blockbuster that deserves whatever attendance records it breaks and whatever millions of summer dollars it rakes in. One glaring error I have to mention – If you are behind bullet proof glass and shoot your gun point blank at it, the bullet comes back your way really fast. If you shoot 5 bullets at it, 5 bullets come back your way really fast. And you are dumb enough to unload your clip hoping for a different outcome, the whole clip of bullets will still come back your way – really fast.

Perhaps someone needed to point out this detail to the director who seems to live in a world where all guns shoot Hollywood blanks and nothing ever ricochets back.
– See it on the Big Screen

Ant Man
Ant Man (PG-13)
Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas Star in the latest Marvel Studios film, Ant Man. Scott Lang (Rudd) is a master thief who takes on an impossible task in a special suit that shrinks him down molecularly into ant size, but conveniently still with the strength of a full grown man. He attempts this craziness so that he can avoid more prison time to be with his young daughter as she grows up.

For this mission he needs to thwart a sinister businessman who has a rival ant man suit (Yellow Jacket) in his huge corporate building that is protected with a lot of security features. Scott first needs to train in the ant suit and this is where the film struggles. (See photo above.)

The effects are solid but they try too hard to put too many ANTics into the film. In one short scene he runs (in ant-sized form) out of a quickly filling tub of water in his apartment, to end up falling on the floor – smashing down through the floor of the apartment into a booming disco (really?) right onto a spinning vinyl record (really??) where he spins off to the floor where he dodges the quickly shuffling monster disco feet of the crowd dancing all around him – until he ends up smashing his way into another living room where a vacuum cleaner sucks him into the bag, and . . . what cartoon planet is this supposed to be?

It’s supposed to be present day earth.

Oh, and he can talk to ants too, so reinforcements are never far away. I became ANTsy by the second half but the pint-sized children sitting around us seemed to enjoy it well enough.
– Wait for DVD (if you are a big Marvel fan)

Jurassic 2016
Jurassic World (PG-13)
Those who have seen the Spielberg directed classic films will understand that he lets a scene play out for full effect. However long it takes. In real life there are awkward pauses and there are natural pauses. Spielberg always embraced the natural pause and natural flow of casual conversation. It’s what gives his movies a life that other films lack. Whether it’s the scenes around a kitchen table in Jaws or the young kids around the kitchen table in ET. You needn’t rush each shot to the next one or you’ll risk a cookie cutter action film. Alas, Spielberg was the producer of this film, not the director.

Budding director Colin Trevorrow doesn’t subscribe to Spielberg’s methods as the scenes in Jurassic World quickly dance from one scene to another before they can gel enough to bring the audience fully into the fold. With only one independent film to speak of under his belt (Safety Not Guaranteed) it’s anyone’s guess how Mr. Trevorrow was given the reins to this high profile sequel.

There is one scene (the first helicopter ride) where we get a taste of the flavor of the first Jurassic Park film. There was hope at that point that this movie could rise to the blockbuster occasion. But it quickly looses that strategic pacing and instead paints by the numbers methodically forward.

The acting can’t be faulted. Everyone onscreen does what it takes with the lines they are given and the big budget dinos are certainly convincing. I’ve never seen actress Bryce Dallas Howard in anything else. It’s almost unfair that she is the daughter of Ron Howard. How awful would it must have been to go up against her in acting class at the New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts? She plays the part well as the all-too-busy operations manager of the park. But director Trevorrow should be heavily fined for continuing to film all of her scenes (five months of filming) while she continually runs away from dinosaurs in high heels, even when running through the dense, muddy jungle! If you think I’m exaggerating, take another peek at the photo heading up this review. Sexy, hell yeah . . . but given this very specific situation she could sure use a Nike swoop on those kicks.

At some point one would think that while eating dinner, or laying awake in bed, as most stressed directors do, or while talking to one of the hundred women around him on the sets, or perhaps teased by his wife – at some point in time during months of shooting, the director would ask himself (or be asked by someone over the age of eleven) if it is in any way plausible that a woman not wearing a cape would be able to pull off such an olympic exercise as running and hiking in jungle terrain in heels for 24 hours. With a Rolodex full of Hollywood writers, who we can only assume are the best screenwriters on the planet, at your fingertips, with Spielberg as your producer, surely someone could have come up with a way to rewrite a couple lines in the script so she could change out of her high heels!

I’m talking hundreds of thousands of dollars in stiff fines. No one in the theater was fooled by it. Not for a second. It’s certainly the least plausible part of the entire story, and we’re talking about engineered living dinosaurs in a theme park on a distant island.

Is it as good as the original? No, and perhaps there will never be a dinosaur theme park film that will rise to Spielberg’s original. But if you enjoy the theme of engineered dinosaurs gone wrong, this one puts enough of a twist on the story to keep you interested enough for a theater visit.
– See it on the Big Screen

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