fantasy

Update-College Move-In/My Thoughts On: “The Dark Tower”

Oh boy, it’s finally that time.  In four days, this guy will be moving into a dorm and will be earning his BA in the next three years.  To be clear, I have been in PSEO courses for the past two years (earning college credits in high school in order to skip the obligatory general courses required for a degree).  I commuted from home and had much more time to watch/review movies.  Since this is my first semester for real, there will be fewer posts.  This is due to a combination of: getting used to the new schedule and setting, not having my car (it would be a hassle to take it with me), and the lack of a job.  I’m not broke, and the school has a bus so there will be a few reviews here and there.  When in doubt, check my “About” section for the most updated version of my schedule.

You may have noticed that the website has not changed, though I said there were a few things I wanted to change in the last update.  Well, a lot of it has to do with the fact that this website costs me nothing.  I would have to pay a monthly fee to have complete control over design and presentation; but since I don’t have a job, and do not get paid for these reviews, it will stay this way for a while.  Sorry (unless of course you don’t mind how it currently is).  Now let’s get to the main attraction.

The Dark Tower is the newest entry into the “disappointing Stephen King adaptation” genre (along with The Shining Mini-Series, Dreamcatcher, Maximum Overdrive, Thinner, Lawnmower Man, and The Langoliers).  Of course Mr. King’s legacy has brought us some of cinema’s most famous stories like: Shawshank Redemption, Misery, Stand by Me, Carrie, and Kubrick’s The Shining.  Considering that he’s published over 250 novels, short stories, etcetera, Hollywood will squeeze every last penny out of his bestsellers.  Today, we have The Dark Tower, a film so standard, so lazily-executed, you’ll forget it 1 hour after leaving the theater!

The main problem with The Dark Tower is the utter lack of detail.  You know how Peter Jackson made Lord of the Rings (the story that was supposedly impossible to adapt) into movies?  It was not by pure luck that the end result was near-perfect.  The books told of fantastic battles, memorable characters, and one heck of a universe!  The Dark Tower shares many of these traits: multiple books, loyal fanbases, both stories are fantasy epics, and their film adaptations were both highly anticipated.  Only difference is that you could see the effort and love behind every scene in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  The Dark Tower felt like it was written by a Sony computer, shot by a hummingbird, edited by a cocaine addict, and directed by a coffee table.  This is an enormous shame because the marketing was great.  The two leads looked cool and the action sequences promised some stunning visuals.  In reality, the characters are blander than bread, the PG-13 rating ensures that all the potentially awesome violence is gone, and the story is a compilation of fantasy movie clichés rather than an original story.

Despite the short runtime, the pacing is boringly slow and there are more “talking head” scenes than you would ever want in a Stephen King adaptation.  When the action does show up, it’s only slightly less generic than Power Rangers (2017).  The aforementioned neutered rating prevents any real impact, the camera does whatever it wants, and the actors, much like the audience, look uninvested.  The story is even worse.  Most of the narrative is a mishmash of King tropes, and all the interesting stuff is not explained.  Who built this tower?  Why are there so few people protecting it?  What is the backstory (and motivation for that matter) of our antagonist?  Where do these alternate beings come from?  None of these vital questions are answered very well, if at all.  The best we get are a handful of references to much better King adaptations in one pathetic attempt at fan service.  For all of you who subscribed to the “Stephen King universe” thing, I didn’t see any overarching plot that connected to any other one of King’s works.  Granted, I haven’t read The Dark Tower novels so the connection could be in the books, but it’s certainly not in this bare bones flick.  The only mildly entertaining things about the film are a few cool slow motion moments and Matthew McConaughey (who you could tell was enjoying every second of screentime).  Unfortunately, that only goes so far, especially when the climax, the final battle between Idris Elba and McConaughey, is the definition of “all buildup, no payoff.”  This confrontation was almost as bad as Batman vs. Superman… almost.

Bottom line, The Dark Tower is a thoroughly skippable waste of time and money.  Quite a shame too, because many potential fans were likely turned off from King’s (supposedly) great magnum opus epic.  As for me, I’m much more apprehensive about the new It film.  The Dark Tower gets Guy’s Guru Grade of a C-.

Thanks for understanding my transition into college life; I’ll get back to reviews once everything is sorted out.

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“Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie” Review

Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry!  While I could annoy you with excuses reasons as to why it took me over 2 weeks to publish a review (like realizing that the seats at my new AMC get booked really fast), that would be weak and unprofessional.  Instead, I’ll talk about my firsthand exposure to the horror of… pre-movie commercials!  I drastically overestimated how long it would take me to get to this matinee, so I had about 40 minutes of filler to sit though before the movie actually started.  Now, I’m not talking about the trailers for movies that will play in a theater, I’m talking about those ads that air when you’re taking a pee-break from PBS.  Lo and behold, I’m stuck in a scratchy chair, without the use of my phone because I ran out of data, and the commercials are unbearably generic.  All except for the one where I got to see Mark Wahlberg talk to Gumball Waterson.  That was fun.  Once the nightmares concluded, I could finally be treated to one of the most potentially-abhorrent adaptations of all time.  Let’s begin.

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie is directed by David Soren and written by Nicholas Stoller and David Soren.  Stars: Thomas Middleditch, Kevin Hart, Ed Helms, and Jordan Peele.  Premise-The lives of two joke-making schoolkids are forever changed when they hypnotize their mean principal into becoming Captain Underpants (a superhero the boys created for their comics).

Remember when Blue Sky Studios released The Peanuts Movie 2 years ago?  It was an adaptation of a classic source material meant for children, animated in energetic 3D, everyone thought it would suck, and by a miracle from heaven, it was actually good.  Well, DreamWorks seems to have taken a few notes from the most forgettable animation company of modern time and the result is a thoroughly passable venture.  I love Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants novels.  Clever humor, satirical storytelling, and a thorough understanding of the spirit of childhood.  When I first heard the mere idea of a film adaptation, I could not fathom how they could stretch the stories into 90 minutes.  Then again, The Peanuts Movie did it right, let’s see how Captain Underpants accomplished this.

The first thing I must praise is the voice-acting.  While Middleditch sounds way too old to voice a 9 year old (Harold), Kevin Hart actually changed his voice for this role (unlike in Secret Life of Pets).  Also, Jordan Peele is excellent (he voices a white kid, and I couldn’t tell it was him), and Ed Helms’s energy as the hero is impossible to resist.  What’s better is that the animation brings each of these characters to life.  You guys know I’m not that big a fan of 3D, but its best uses are with adaptions like Wreck-It Ralph, The Peanuts Movie, The Angry Birds Movie.  The character designs are perfect, and the fast-paced writing allows for some entertaining slapstick and visual gags.

When it comes to the story… eh, it’s hard to talk about.  In regards to my question about how they could get 90 minutes out of a book with less than 150 pages, the writers attempted to combine the first, second, and fourth novels.  I say attempted, because the narrative is very disjointed.  If you never read the books, it’ll be less distracting, but certain scenes felt out of leftfield.  There are also a few terribly-sung musical numbers (I get the point, but Middleditch can’t sing), and there are a few clichés that grate on you.  Despite this, the writing is actually more intelligent than you’d expect.  This movie has an unholy amount of self-awareness.  There are just as many jokes for adults as there are for the kids.  And by “adult jokes” I don’t mean gross sex puns, or obnoxious stereotypes (the ones that made The Angry Birds Movie so unfunny), I mean self-referential humor that pokes fun at clichés of the genre.  Obviously, this wasn’t done as well as say, The Lego Batman Movie, but it is no less appreciated here.  Above all, the show knows it’s for kids.  There are a few fourth wall jokes here and there when the characters talk directly to the kids in the audience.  Wouldn’t you know it; the children in the theater loved it.

Alright, another one bites the dust.  I hope you enjoyed this review, because I recommend it to anyone with kids or fond memories of the novels.  Heck, I wrote a book report on this series a few years back, and I can comfortably say that I enjoyed watching an animated, middle-aged man parade around in his underpants for 90 minutes.  More reviews coming soon!  Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie gets Guy’s Guru Grade of a B.

My Thoughts On: “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword”

Poor Guy Ritchie.  The guy can’t catch a break after Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (which I thought was fine).  I mean, The Man from U.N.C.L.E was unbelievably forgettable, and was such a box office disaster; I thought he wouldn’t get to make another movie for a while.  Luckily, some studio had faith in him, now we can see his interpretation of one of England’s most famous legends.  Unfortunately, you’ll be wishing they never pulled the sword from the paper mache stone after watching the end result.

To its credit, King Arthur is the most visually interesting Ritchie film (after Sherlock Holmes) I’ve seen.  Oh, I’m not talking about the F/X (which look unbelievably cheap); I mean the sets, costumes, and some of the cinematography.  Good thing too, because the characters are bland as white bread.  While Charlie Hunam gives a decent performance, I can’t remember anyone from the movie, probably because the screenwriters used token “adventure” clichés as characters.  It would be easy to list them off, but I’d rather talk about the worst one: Arthur himself.  Instead of being a bad*** swordfighter whose strong-willed, diligent personality never surrenders; Arthur is reduced to the “reluctant hero” trope.  Mhm, the most tedious version of “the chosen one” plotline is our protagonist for 2 incredibly long hours.  If that wasn’t enough, his backstory is exactly the same as the story of Moses (there is even a scene where he’s sent down a river in a basket as a baby).  Oy, these characters are forgettable.

It’s a shame really.  There are moments of classic Ritchie brilliance (an interrogation scene in particular is hilarious), the music and production is cool, and when the movie actually wants to be awesome, it is.  I don’t know much about King Arthur lore, aside from that line in Tomb Raider: Legend where Alister states that Excalibur and the Sword in the Stone were, “Two bloody different stories!”  What I can tell you is that this movie’s bland story is not saved by a neutered PG-13 rating and a lack of satisfying action sequences.  King Arthur: Legend of the Sword gets Guy’s Guru Grade of a C+.

Disney Remakes: Their Effect on the Industry

“Really?  Another online millennial complaining about remakes?  Let me guess: he hates the Ghostbusters remake, lives in his parents’ basement, and thinks his opinion is the only correct one.”  Hey!  I’m moving into a dorm in August…  Anyway, let’s talk about something that has been punching my frontal lobe for over 2 years.  I kept my patience during Maleficent, I tolerated a remake that added just as many problems as it fixed (Cinderella 2015), I gave Jon Favreau the proper praise for his Jungle Book, and I’ve completely forgotten Pete’s Dragon (2016).  However, what I, and most others judging by the reactions, did not know was that Disney had been planning a massive “remake” franchise.  This very concept infuriates my creative core, and this post is essentially going to be an informal essay on why I believe so.  If anyone wants to challenge my undeniably logical arguments, then make your way to the comments, where I eagerly await to enter “YouTube comment debater” mode!  In all seriousness, I’d really appreciate your feedback with these projects; it’s one of the best ways to learn.  Rant time!

As we all know, Walt Disney was (among many things) a brilliant businessman.  While fighting his way through war, financial insecurity, securing the rights to stories he wanted to tell, and starting his business, Disney was diligently creating one of the world’s most diversified, universal, influential, powerful, profitable, and successful companies in the history of man.  However, the company had to start somewhere.  Before you think this post is a biography of Walt Disney, fear not.  This is only context for how we got to present day Disney, because the film portion of Disney Studios was based off of adapting previously published stories.  Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937), Cinderella (1950), Sleeping Beauty (1959), and many others were all books with similar settings.  All Disney did was adapt them into animated films for child audiences, but oh, did he do it well.  It took very little time for the business to launch, fast-forward about a century or so, and we are at present day.

Mickey Mouse is kicking butts and taking names.  After procuring Marvel and Lucasfilm, they’ve had an almost monopoly-like control over the box office.  If you add the box office gross of The Jungle Book (2016), Captain America: Civil War, Finding Dory, and Zootopia, you get over 4.1 BILLION dollars!  Do you know how much money that is?  Disney certainly does, because they have greenlit over 5 completely unnecessary live-action remakes of their classic films.  Take note that only 1 out of those 4 movies was not based off a familiar product (Zootopia).  This brings me to my first argument (no, it’s not because these movies “ruined my childhood”); these remakes have no point.

To properly explain what makes a great remake, let’s talk about the greatest film remake of all time, John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982).  I read John W. Campbell Jr.’s Who Goes There? (the short story the movie is based on), I watched The Thing from Another World (1951), and I watched Carpenter’s 1982 remake, if there is anyone who understands this story, it’s me.  What I find fascinating is that Carpenter’s version is more faithful to the short story than the first film.  The Thing from Another World is passable, but it has many problems.  So, what does horror master Mr. Carpenter (hot off of Halloween and Escape from New York) do?  Take what made the original work, update the production design, add more character development, and pull no punches.  If you haven’t seen The Thing, please get yourself a copy and watch it because it’s one of the top ten best horror movies of all time.  This is because the material was updated for a newer audience, and the idea behind the remake wasn’t, “Hey, let’s capitalize on something we know made money before!”  The Thing (and others like Scarface, True Grit, and both Magnificent Seven films) proved that remakes can be even better than the original.  So why then is a company known for its creativity and creating warm childhood memories deciding to rehash those memories under the guise of calling them “reimaginings?”  The short answer is that guy in the title picture.  The long answer is more complicated.

In my minor experience, Hollywood likes to play it safe.  The pattern is so universal, audiences expect to see crap in January, blockbusters in the summer months, and Oscar-bait come September.  I somewhat understand this (school’s out in summer, take advantage of more people having more time), but at some point, it becomes a very dangerous tradition.  I’m sick of companies refusing new ideas in place of making money, especially if they have too much already (just think of the last production logo you saw on the big screen).  I want to show you this tweet by CinemaSins.  This is what ticks me off the most.  How many Pulp Fiction/La La Land/Inception scripts were rejected in place of giving us a remake that really has no purpose?  What about the next Steven Spielberg who was left in the waiting room?  Sheesh, The Blair Witch Project was made with sixty-thousand dollars, Star Wars cost $11 million, Hell or High Water required $12 million, and the list goes on.  At this point, “Hollywood is out of ideas” is a freaking punchline due to how many retreads we get.  However, there is hope, in the form of the person reading this post right now.

Check out this screenshot from Rotten Tomatoes (taken a month ago).

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The audience has a lot of control over what is made for them.  This is a no-brainer, you pay money for a certain thing, and more of that thing is made for you (supply and demand).  These companies are merely giving the people what they want.  In the case of positive feedback vs financial revenue, the greenbacks always win.  Because of this, the response is not the problem, that 98% is.  I’m not saying it’s your fault that these sterile remakes are popular (there are so many variables at play), but it is your responsibility to be a “smart shopper” as it were.  One of the main reasons I review movies is to help people decide if something is worth their valuable time and hard-earned money.  Some movies are torture for me to sit through (Vacation 2015), some are delights (Kung Fu Panda 3), and some are just bland and generic (most modern remakes), but the knowledge in knowing that someone is listening keeps me going.  As someone who writes proactively and wants to make movies, it pains me to see the same thing over and over.  What I’m talking about today may not be as horrid as Freddy Got Fingered or Norm of the North, but while those were original products that faded away because of their awfulness, these remakes are setting a trend that smaller, greedier executives will follow, and… it’s a dang shame.

In conclusion, I hope that you now have an understanding as to why I despise this business practice.  Throughout writing this, this thought never left my head, “Perhaps I’m just stating a clichéd criticism.  Maybe all of this will not change anyone’s mind.”  However, I don’t care.  It feels good to finally get my thoughts out there in a formal fashion.  Even if I have no impact, movies could be much, much worse.  At the end of the day, the audience decides what to spend money on.  I leave you with this, what film will you support?  A prettily-disguised cash grab, or a work of ambition that doesn’t fit into “the norm?”

“Beauty and the Beast” (2017) Review

You know, I really can’t take any more of these freaking live-action remakes.  Don’t give me that look.  You and I both know that they are unnecessary cash grabs that (for some reason) keep making money and stopping new scripts from being produced in the process.  I am not one of these people who complain that these movies ruined my childhood (the Internet did that long before mainstream media did), nor am I one of those people who believe that all movies that get a remake are the worst thing ever.  One of my top 15 favorite movies of all time is John Carpenter’s The Thing; a remake made by an artist who loved the original and improved upon it.  Today we have a remake that doesn’t take any risks, and amazingly it left me just as annoyed as I was with Ghostbusters (2016).

Beauty and the Beast is directed by Bill Condon and written by Evan Spiliotopoulos and Stephen Chbosky.  Stars-Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, and Kevin Kline.  Premise-When her father is taken prisoner by a ferocious beast, the young, kind, and beautiful Belle takes his place and quickly discovers that her captor may be much more than his outward appearance.

Before we continue, allow me to tick off some 90s kids; I am not that big a fan of the original Beauty and the Beast.  Of course it is one of the best films in the Disney renaissance.  Of course the animation is gorgeous.  And of course the natural romantic progression rivals that of a Richard Linklater film.  The soundtrack is tops, Gaston is the most hateably fun alpha-male in film history, and it has stood the test of time better than most kid-friendly romances.  However, I feel little personal connection with it.  It could be that I’ve never been in a romantic relationship before (maybe there were too many contrivances or silly moments in the movie), but it’s not a movie that I’d buy on Blu-Ray, cry while watching, or gush about.  It’s an excellent film, but not one of my favorites.  Hmm.  It appears that this paragraph has fallen on deaf ears.  I currently have 20 enraged Tumblr fanboys brandishing pitchforks outside my house.  Well, better get on with this review.

While Cinderella (2015) added just as many problems as it removed, and The Jungle Book (2016) improved upon the original (slightly), this Beauty and the Beast remake is content to change absolutely nothing.  I’m sure they made minor revisions here and there, but I am not employed by Screen Junkies, so it’s not my job to nitpick.  Seriously, this movie is almost scene-for-scene like the original.  I’m not racist, but it’s telling when the thing that stood out to me the most was the addition of black side-characters.  Ok, that’s not the only change that I noticed.  The best change is with LeFou’s character.  Not only does he have more dimension, but Josh Gad plays him extremely well.  He does begin as the “idiot best friend” cliché, but he has the funniest lines in the film, and his energy brightens any scene with him in it.  Other than that, everything is almost exactly the same, and that is a problem.

There are two ways to do remakes now (at least according to Hollywood): change very little and go the safe route, or change everything and act like the original doesn’t exist (or worse, disrespect the original).  Vacation (2015) and Ghostbusters (2016) obviously fall into the latter category due to their insulting writing and arrogant marketing.  Beauty and the Beast (2017) is worse than the original because the live-action CGI cannot compare to the extremely talented 2D animation of the biggest animation company of all time (to be fair, the F/X, costumes, music, and sets are pretty impressive).  Not helping the film is the cast.  Aside from Josh Gad, everyone is at a similar level of awkward.  Luke Evans can’t match the “charm” of the original Gaston, Emma Watson needs to be more expressive (in one musical scene, she stops in one spot with her arms against her sides while staring at a green screen), Dan Stevens can’t sing, especially with his distorted Beast voice, and the townspeople are all very passive-aggressive for some reason.  As far as story goes, mostly everything is the same.

Well that was a short review!  I’ll say it again, because this movie is so unnecessarily familiar, and my passive opinion of the original, I can’t muster up the rage to care, nor was there much substance in the first place.  If you were surprised to see the end of the review so soon, now you know how I felt when I first realized that I had very little to say about another dang remake that stingy executives threw money at instead of original ideas.  Beauty and the Beast (2017) gets Guy’s Guru Grade of a B-.

P.S-A very special “Thank You” to everyone who read and liked my “Inferno” post.  I put quite a bit of work into it, and even though it is the first special project I have done, I’m pleased with the results.  I now have much more confidence to start writing the next one.  Here’s a little teaser for you: it has something to do with Disney.

“The Great Wall” Review

First thing’s first, casting Matt Damon in this movie was not a stroke of whitewashing.  I grow tired of having to clarify these things.  Internet, questioning is fine, but wait until you have all the facts before you accuse.  From the director himself, “In many ways The Great Wall is the opposite of what is being suggested. For the first time, a film deeply rooted in Chinese culture, with one of the largest Chinese casts ever assembled, is being made at tent pole scale for a world audience.  Matt Damon is not playing a role that was originally conceived for a Chinese actor.”  He was hired by a Chinese production company/director to play in the country’s most expensive film of all time.  That said, The Great Wall is probably that country’s worst movie of all time.

The Great Wall is directed by Yimou Zhang and written by: Marshall Herskovitz, Edward Zwick, Max Brooks, Tony Gilroy, Doug Miro, and Carlo Bernard.  Stars-Matt Damon, Pedro Pascal, Tian Jing, and Willem Dafoe.  Premise-While running from bandits and searching for the fabled “black powder” (aka gunpowder), mercenary William (Damon) comes across the Great Wall of China, where he quickly learns that it is the first line of defense against a furious colony of creatures bent on consuming everything in sight.

If you want to look for whitewashing in this production, check out that writing team.  When I first saw “Story by Edward Zwick,” everything made much more sense because The Great Wall is a lot like a Zwick film: all style (action) no substance (story).  The best thing about this movie is the action sequences.  The sound design, Ramin Djawadi’s score, and a good sense of scale and urgency create some pretty cool battles.  Unfortunately, that, along with impeccable sets and costumes, is the only redeemable thing about this utterly forgettable flick.

Yimou Zhang is one of Asia’s most renowned directors (pretty close to Akira Kurosawa).  He’s won two BAFTAs and has directed several Oscar-nominated films.  My question is: why the living heck did he sign on to this Americanized dreck?!  Seriously,  I have never seen a more American film from a foreign production company/director in my life.  The Great Wall uses, literally, every single bad action movie cliché in the book.  Characters flying back half a mile when a green screen prop hits them, an attractive, white, male, mega star in the lead role, an overdose of crappy CGI, annoying shaky-cam, unfunny side characters, and of course, explosions.  This action movie sucks at creating suspense because I could predict it scene by scene, and since the characters are stock, boring clichés, The Great Wall is a bore to sit through.  Also, the trailers lie to your face.  The line, “I’ve fought for greed and gods” is not in the film, and the way they show the monsters suggest them to be something entirely different than what they really are.

If you need any proof of how no one cared about this project, just look at the actors.  When they’re not doing their best impression of an IKEA coffee table, they sport the, “I know being in this movie will sully my reputation, but I got paid big time” expression.  I honestly don’t blame them, they have nothing to work with.  You’re not going to believe this, but there are not one, not two, but three main characters that contribute absolutely nothing to the plot!  I have never seen that before in my life!  Not only that, but there are a million plot-wrecking plotholes and contrivances.  For example, it takes the movie till the halfway point (long enough for the audience to lose any suspension of disbelief) to explain where the heck these monsters came from, and doing so creates even more continuity issues.  I’m all for historically inaccurate films.  When properly written, we get the awesomely fun Inglourious Basterds, the incredibly dramatic Braveheart, and 300 (need I say more?).  Apparently this is one of the legends of the Great Wall of China.  What the filmmaker’s do not understand is that your movie has to be coherent regardless of historical accuracy.  There’s about 25 MacGuffin’s and none of them make any sense, despite their lazy attempts to dump exposition on everything.

The climax is especially ridiculous.  Just when you didn’t think they could cram in any more clichés, they do (and take your money at the same time).  I can’t list them all for fear of spoilers, but this one needs to be called out.  *MINOR SPOILER*  It is a death scene.  When this happened, I fully gave up on any dignity the movie had left.  It is perhaps the worst self-sacrifice I have ever come across.  They even do the slow-motion head turn as the character does the deed.  What’s insulting about this is that the character that dies is barely developed.  They have a few scenes, but the movie never even tells me their freaking name (at least, not to my knowledge)!  These were my immediate words after that scene, “Aw.  I cared so much for…whatshisname?”

After the thorough spanking I gave this movie, you’d probably expect me to call this one of the worst movies of all time.  Heck no.  The sad fact is, every now and then we get a mindless action movie with a grand scale setting.  It was Ben-Hur and Legend of Tarzan in 2016, San Andreas and Maze Runner: Scorch Trials in 2015, Transformers: Age of Extinction and I, Frankenstein in 2014 (there were many in that year), etc.  Each and every one of those films shares the same elements: boring, stupid, and forgettable.  Oh, and crappy.  I’m going to watch Kung Fu Hustle now and pray to God that these clichés (aka blights on cinema), end.  The Great Wall gets Guy’s Guru Grade of a D-.

“The Lego Batman Movie” Review

You all know the story of a certain animated masterpiece about Legos, how great it is, and how the Academy, in one of their dumbest moves yet, snubbed it for Best Animated Feature in 2015.  The writing was clichéd, but creative, the voice-actors’ personalities shined, and the animation is some of the best you’ll ever see.  It proved many naysayers wrong, and reminded us that movies based on toys don’t always have to suck.  This film paved the way for toy-based movies to make a comeback.  Sadly we got Trolls, Max Steel, and Monster Trucks.  Looks like Hollywood needs a refresher on how to do it right, and there’s no better candidate than the one we’re going over now.

The Lego Batman Movie is directed by Chris McKay and written by: Seth Grahame-Smith, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Jared Stern, and John Whittington.  Stars-Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, and Zach Galifianakis.  Premise-A spin-off of The Lego Movie, Bruce Wayne/Batman must face his fear of relationships while ensuring the safety of Gotham.

Before we get into anything major it would be apparent to say that this movie is not nearly as amazing as the first one.  That doesn’t mean The Lego Batman Movie isn’t without its charms.  Honestly, if you want to sum up this movie’s humor, I would call it a kid-friendly version of Deadpool.  There are so many fourth wall jokes, jabs at the clichés of superhero movies, and CinemaSins-style (those guys have no idea how much they’ve influenced cinema) self-awareness gags.  Basically, this movie makes fun of anything having to do with the Batman character from the 60s to the 2010s (I honestly think it was funnier than Deadpool).  That is where the humor shines.   There is some quirky wordplay, but the parody factor is what delivers.  The animation compliments it very well.  Surely it doesn’t need to be stated that the animation in these Lego films is in the Top Ten of Forever/All Time?  I don’t have to say much, just check out the trailers, or the first movie, or this movie, and ye shall be rewarded (the music is pretty cool as well).

Unfortunately, Lego Batman suffers from something that many parodies can’t escape… using the clichés they make fun of.  Doing this is necessary to a certain point (how could Scream be a 90s horror movie if there were no teens getting murdered?), but Lego Batman uses many comic book movie clichés to build the story.  This would have been fine if the writing was as solid as it was in The Lego Movie (whose entire message and lead character was a trope as old as storytelling itself), but there are quite a few plotholes and they don’t reach the amount of dramatic heft they were going for.

The main conflict is Batman’s refusal to allow others into his life, which is definitely enough to carry a movie.  My problem is how they execute it.  Batman is flanderized quite a bit.  I know that this is a tongue-in-cheek animated Lego flick (an extremely over-the-top one), but Batman is annoyingly hard-headed and egotistical during most of his screen time.  I could excuse it in The Dark Knight because his character was very complicated, but it takes way too long for Lego Batman to learn this simple lesson.  Also, this thing about Batman’s character that they are debunking; it’s been a major part of Bruce Wayne’s core character since the comics.  That’s what makes him Batman.  If you want to satirize how the movies have taken it too far (Batman v Superman, Dark Knight Rises) or not cared at all (Batman and Robin) fine, but questioning Bruce Wayne’s loner personality is like complaining about Superman’s alien origin.

The last few script problems are minor, but distracting.  For one, I have no idea when this story takes place.  I know it’s a spin-off, but they mention “master building” once or twice and they show a clip from the first movie.  Continuity is important, regardless of what character arc you’re focusing on.  Also, the climax is pretty cheesy.  Actually, it’s cheesy, predictable, and makes no sense.  Is it bad to say that the Portal Ex Machina from The Lego Movie was more believable than what happens in Lego Batman?  Again, these are minor problems; there is plenty of good to make up for it (including the energetic voice-acting).

I hope you’ve ascertained two things from this review: 1-The Lego Batman Movie is not as good as its predecessor, 2-you should see it right now.  If not for the humor, then maybe for the spectacle.  This movie is truly wonderful to look at.  I was scared to write notes should I miss some scintillating imagery.  This is one of the best animated spin-offs of all time, and it rightfully deserves Guy’s Guru Grade of a B+.

 

Batman Movies Ranked

Batman: The Movie (1966) – N/A

Batman (1989) – A

Batman Returns (1992) – C+

Batman Forever (1995) – B-

Batman and Robin (1997) – F

Batman Begins (2005) – A-

The Dark Knight (2008) – A

The Dark Knight Rises (2012) – C

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) – C-

Batman: The Killing Joke (2016) – C-

The Lego Batman Movie (2017) – B+

Top Ten Best Movies of 2016

I don’t know what to write here, so let’s just talk about some dang good movies!

 

Rules: This list contains movies from 2016 that I have watched in their entirety.  Whether I reviewed them or not doesn’t matter (links to the movies I have written about will be provided).  Only theatrical releases can be on this list.  The grades I gave them in their reviews do not matter; it is a comparison of the best movies form last year that I saw.  Finally, this is my list, with my opinions, and my praise, so enjoy!

 

#10 – Zootopia

Yes, that “rules” paragraph was copy-pasted from my other list (problem?), but here is a movie without a shred of redundancy.  My opinion has wavered over how rock solid the commentary is, but one thing is certain, Zootopia is a clever look at society with the charm and likability of a Disney renaissance film.  The characters (if they are not a stereotype) are brimming with personality, the voice acting is amiable, and the animation is some of the best 3D has to offer.  Zootopia is overrated, but for very good reason.

#9 – The Lobster/Swiss Army Man

What is dis?  Two movies for one spot?  How dare I!  It’s my list, so roll with it.  I was in a major state of hopelessness before I watched these movies.  I really needed to see something original to combat the slew of pandering garbage.  I was excited and apprehensive to see both of these films because their trailers left much to the imagination.  I’ve been meaning to talk about both of these movies since I first watched the last year, but other things took priority.  By now, you probably know the plots of these movies, and you should watch them if not.  What’s fascinating is how eerily similar they are.  Both are love stories, they each have fantasy elements, they both have a 7.1 IMDb rating, neither of them follow “traditional” writing, and they were both incredible refreshers in a crappy film year.  The casts are given a lot to work with, the soundtracks are magnificent, and the oddball humor almost always hits it’s mark.  Most critics prefer The Lobster and most audiences prefer Swiss Army Man, but as far as this Internet nobody is concerned, they are equally original, equally entertaining, and equally important.

#8 – The Magnificent Seven

Many a time has passed when I fantasize about Vincent D’Onofrio’s Jack Horne entering reality, hunting down the people who gave this movie a poor rating, and asking them in a half-friendly tone (while brandishing an axe), “Now why did y’all have to do that?”  Is that normal?  Can you blame me?  The Magnificent Seven is one of the best action movies of last year, but it is quite possibly the most underrated gem of that year.  The performances are memorable, the action is brutal, the score is incredible, the cinematography is resplendent, and the mere fact that this movie is not only the rare, “remake of a remake,” but one that manages to be good as well… it’s awesome!  This is Antoine Fuqua’s best film since Shooter in 2007.  And yet, people still call it a worse remake than Ghostbusters 2016.  For those of you who believe that, refer to this list, then this review, then get your brain checked out.  Don’t give me that look; this is a list of movies that I love.  Of course I’m going to defend them!  You get the point, you’re in for some great action when you watch this movie.

#7 – Kung Fu Panda 3

I spent at least 30 minutes debating the order of this movie and the next one on the list.  After re-reading the reviews, thus recalling why I love both of them, I still can’t decide.  I’d put them both in the same spot, but I already did that with The Lobster/Swiss Army Man, and I don’t want to annoy you that much.  Let’s just say that #7 and #6 are interchangeable.

Oops, almost forgot to talk about Kung Fu Panda 3.  I still stand by what I said in the review, “Kung Fu Panda is one of the greatest movie trilogies of all time!”  I cannot think of a film trilogy that improved each time.  Return of the Jedi isn’t as good as its predecessors, nor was Temple of Doom or Dark Knight Rises, and the individual films in the Toy Story and Lord of the Rings trilogies are equally great (at least to me).  I am thoroughly triggered over the Oscar snubbery of this film.  There was not an animated film that looked more beautiful than this one.  Nobody will agree with me, but while Kubo and the Two Strings was detailed, Sing was colorful, and Zootopia was wonderfully designed, the visual appeal in Kung Fu Panda 3 (especially during the spirit world sequences) is not to be missed.  The animation is backed by likable characters, progressive writing, and upbeat humor.  I don’t know what they’ll do with the next movie but I have confidence in this team.  Their effort shows through the finished product, which is entertainment with a big heart.

#6 – Doctor Strange

Superhero movies cannot grow old as long as Marvel keeps churning out exceptional stuff like Doctor Strange!  From the acrobatic choreography, to the charming cast, to the philosophy, to the incredible production quality (i.e. makeup, F/X, costumes, and sets), everything is impressive.  You’ll notice that there are many movies on this list that could be considered “basic entertainment,” but that is perfectly acceptable.  There seems to be two radical thoughts on how “deep” movies can be.  Either “every movie is mindless entertainment,” or “everything has to be Manchester by the Sea levels of emotionally complicated.”  There is such a thing as a lighthearted action flick with some character or moral depth.  There can also be a serious movie with a decent helping of fun action/comedy.  One of the finest examples of this is Raiders of the Lost Ark.  If you think about it, the whole point of the movie was to stop the Nazis (the freaking Nazis!) from getting their hands on a weapon that would allow them to take over the world.  Clever writing and Steven Spielberg’s direction gave the movie more of a “fun adventure” tone, despite the many aspects of it that are not meant for kids.  On the surface, Doctor Strange is a thrilling spectacle of magic, but the developed characters all have very adult reasons for what they believe in.  Bottom line, if you want a superhero flick with the excitement of a summer blockbuster but with the attention to detail of a character piece, Doctor Strange is your movie.  After all, there will be plenty of mature movies now that we are in the top 5.

#5 – La La Land

We wanted a movie with style.  We wanted a movie with originality.  We wanted a movie with effort.  In response, we got La La Land, a beautiful throwback to the musicals of the past.  I never explained how bad of an experience I had at the theater when I watched the movie.  It was… very unpleasant.  After watching more reviews, clips from the film, and listening to the soundtrack on repeat, I’ve grown to like it more.  I still don’t think that “fantasy” thing near the end should have happened, but La La Land is still a feel-good musical with irresistible actors and a soundtrack that is just as great as everyone says.  It’s a movie that sparkles with style, delivers pure entertainment, and radiates passion/effort.

#4 – Hidden Figures

This one has grown on me over time.  The cast brims with talent, every character’s dialogue is intelligent, the score is wonderful, and the pacing is really good.  It felt like I had endured the amount of time the women in the movie did.  When justice is served, it felt earned.  The lighthearted tone mirrors the movie’s most valuable asset… a sense of hope.

#3 – Captain America: Civil War

In a world when audiences across the world are massively disappointed by one of 2016’s biggest misfires (Batman v Superman), Marvel will release a film (no, an event) that will remind us that superhero movies can have compelling story arcs, characters with character, mind-blowing visuals, incredible fight choreography, and a perfect balance of comedy and drama.  To those who have been picking apart every single word in the script, aren’t you taking this superhero movie (that doesn’t’ take itself that seriously) too seriously?  I really like Daniel Brühl’s villain, he had a plan that is legitimately intelligent.  The tension between the 10+ main characters (I’m still amazed at how well they wrote everyone) created more suspense than waiting for the airport scene (that takes really competent direction), and of course, the freaking battle sequences alone make life worth living.

#2 – Hacksaw Ridge

It came down to a tough decision between this move and number 1.  Hacksaw Ridge is one of the two movies of 2016 that drove me to tears (the other was Patriots Day, specifically the ending).  There are so many things this war drama does right… only the direction of Mel Gibson could have done it.  Andrew Garfield shines (as does the rest of the cast), the character’s actions support the message, the technical aspects are a spectacle, and that M.M.M montage cannot be forgotten.  This movie spends it’s time setting up the compelling characters before throwing them into the horrors of Hacksaw Ridge.  It is very hard to watch this movie, but the amount of care and respect that went into it is awe-inspiring.

 

Honorable Mentions

A sequel that ups the characters as much as the production quality, The Conjuring 2 has the dramatic heft to support the terrifying story.

Why wasn’t this nominated for any Oscars?  Seriously, Parker Sawyers and Tika Sumpter are spot on, their relationship progression felt natural, the time period is captured very well, and the movie doesn’t focus purely on politics.  As far as romances go, it’s one of the best.

After Barbershop 2: Back in Business, this movie had very little to live up to.  But under the competent direction of Malcom D. Lee, a fully-utilized cast, fast-paced humor, relatable characters, and engaging social commentary, The Next Cut became the best film in the trilogy.

  • Arrival

I never got around to reviewing this one because I couldn’t’ form an actual opinion.  One (or four) thing’s for sure, the story is original, the visuals can’t be beat, the score is chilling, and it requires you to use your brain.

  • Nocturnal Animals

This is one of the most elegant movies I have ever seen.  The score (especially “Wayward Sisters”) is beautiful, Tom Ford’s vision is remarkable, the performances (especially Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon) are excellent, and the story is intriguing.  Nocturnal Animals is one experience you won’t soon forget.

  • Loving

It suffers from Jeff Nichols trademarked slow pacing, but Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga’s performances are unbelievably endearing.

Top notch technicals are really second to the incredibly respectful direction, intense acting, and genuine drama.

It has plenty of issues, but the climax is awesome, the characters are likable, and the presentation is amazing.

This movie wasn’t meant for me, but I still appreciate what it accomplished.  It’s a superbly acted drama about regular people (something we don’t get enough of).

  • Lion

The first third is quite boring, but the second Dev Patel (congrats on the Oscar nomination man, you deserve it) arrives on screen, the movie gets better and better.  Not to mention Nicole Kidman’s heartbreaking acting and a tear-jerking climax.

Sing is one of the most innocently enjoyable films I’ve seen in quite some time.  Energetic animation backs up extremely likable (and perfectly casted) characters, completed with a terrific soundtrack.

 

#1 – Hell or High Water

While Hacksaw Ridge was tear-jerkingly dramatic, Hell or High Water is a slow-building, character-driven film about family, banks, old age, regret, and morality.  I can’t describe how detailed the screenplay is.  I’m’ looking forward to Taylor Sheridan’s Wind River because this guy knows what makes any compelling movie… characters.  In Hell or High Water, there is the black and white law, but there are also desperate people who have to break that law to survive.  None of the awards for this movie truly tell you how exceptional the cast is.  Chris Pine and Ben Foster have incredible chemistry, as do Jeff Bridges and Gil Bermingham.  There is such an attention to character in this movie, it is amazing.  This is the type of mature, important film that was so sorely needed in a year of “junk food movies.”

 

There you have it.  We went through a crappy film year, but made it out (as we always do).  I appreciate each and every one of your viewership.  There was more than one personal challenge for me last year, but when I get notified that “X liked your post,” it tells me that someone listened, and it motivates me to work harder.  – Erick

Top Ten Worst Movies of 2016

If I hear one more person say that 2016 was the worst year ever, I will create a time machine just so I can take them back to when the Plague killed off half of Europe.  If that ain’t scary enough for you, we’ll make a pit stop in 1944 Nazi Germany!

I’m sorry.  I really can’t stand the internet over the last couple of months.  Not helping is the fact that I had to sift through hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of garbage to make this list (which you better enjoy son!).  Last year brought us a slew of audience-insulting immaturity, bland redundancies, and soul-crushing disappointments.  This list is going to identify and properly bash the worst offenders.

Rules: This list contains movies from 2016 that I have watched in their entirety.  Whether I reviewed them or not doesn’t matter (links to the movies I have written about will be provided).  Only theatrical releases can be on this list.  The grades I gave them in their reviews do not matter; it is a comparison of the worst movies I saw.  Finally, this is my list, with my opinions, and my rage, so enjoy!

 

#10 – Suicide Squad

I’d make a joke about fanboy backlash, but: A, I don’t have enough followers to validate that joke, and B; the followers I do have are thinking people with a maturity level above that of a 6th-grader.  Suicide Squad is awful.  I left the theater in shock, unable to accept that a movie this anticipated, with a cast this impeccable, and a director who I really like, could be as disappointing as it was.  As time went on, I liked this movie less and less.  Whatever leeway I had left for this movie was destroyed by David Ayer’s pretentious responses to naysayers of his oh so precious flick.  The cast is wasted, the plot is a jumbled mess, and the F/X are pathetic.  Somehow, DC managed to produce not one, not two, but three incredibly disappointing bombs last year (Batman v Superman, Batman: The Killing Joke, and this movie).  Suicide Squad is the worst because it had the most potential.  Not only was the cast on-point, but this script had the potential to be funny (much more funny than it was), and the characters all had time to be developed.  What we got was one of 2015’s biggest misfires.

#9 – Alice Through the Looking Glass

Does anyone remember this pointless treacle?  Thought not.  As the year went on, we got better F/X from better movies (Miss Peregrine and Rogue One specifically) so the one thing this movie has going for it is outdated.  I never even brought up the utterly pointless mental hospital scene that is never brought up again in the movie.  What was the plot of Through the Looking Glass?  Why was it made?  Why is Borat the master of time?  All I can say is thank God this movie bombed.

#8 – The Boy

Good gosh there were a lot of bad horror movies in 2016!  While I could see the ideas and slight bit of effort behind Blair Witch (that’s why it’s not on the list), I don’t think anyone in the production team of The Boy had a clue.  The very idea of this movie is a cliché, and the twist (unlike the one in Dead Silence which was also a horror movie about creepy dolls) makes the plot even worse.  I watched The Boy on Netflix a while back cuz I craved some scary thrills.  I was treated to boring characters muddling their way through a plot with barely enough substance to make it to the 90 minute mark.  The few scenes with the doll are occasionally creepy, but there were never any white-knuckling moments.  Basically, this is a horror movie with little substance and poor direction… and the title sucks.

#7 – Triple 9

You will see many movies on this list with great casts.  I cannot overstate this, a stellar cast does not equal a good movie!  With the finished product in mind, literally anyone could have played these cardboard cutouts.  The plot is so incoherent and confusing, you’d swear it was the rough draft before any revisions.   The acting itself is lifeless.  The only one who looks like he’s trying is Chiwetel Ejiofor, and the only one with actual character is Casey Affleck.  At least the screenwriter went on to do Patriots Day.  Actually, that makes me wonder if the whole point of this movie was a paycheck for everyone.  Half of the cast went on to make better movies last year, so let’s just forget this utterly forgettable action flick.

#6 – The Secret Life of Pets

Forgive me if I get a bit too angry at Rotten Tomatoes ratings at times.  Essentially, the website is an amalgamation of critical reviews and ratings on most movies.  Technically a movie could be considered better than another if it has a higher percentage.  You have probably read my review of The Secret Life of Pets (since it was one of my most popular reviews from last year), so you know that I hate this movie with a passion.  I think the last time I got that angry at a kid’s movie was Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  Seriously, The Secret Life of Pets can burn and die.  The plot is copy-pasted Toy Story with no effort, humor, or intelligence, the voice acting is nothing but shouting and wasted talent, and the whole thing reeks of pandering to children.  Sing was produced by the same company, but written by people with passion and the finished product had effort put into it!  This movie’s success is a bad message to production companies that essentially says, “You can still rip off better movies and the returns will extremely high.  All you have to do is include a lot of dumb slapstick for the kids, and cast actors (that no one hates) like Louis C. K. and the Gen X critics will go easy on it.”  Not to mention this movie’s biggest WTFrick aspect… animated cat buttholes.  I rest my case.

#5 – Ben-Hur

I’m sorry, who the heck asked for this movie?  I guess the producers thought they could remake a movie from the 50s and assumed younger audience members wouldn’t notice.  How many more crappy remakes that try to ignore the existence of the original are we going to get?  This movie is beyond saving.  If the shaky cinematography, awful editing, wooden performances, lackluster direction, and ugly effects weren’t enough, we also have a script with literally no new ideas.  Instead of subtlety and an epic scale, we have Jesus popping up every other scene like a Jehovah’s Witness, and a claustrophobic feeling (due to the lack of wide, sweeping shots).  How the same director of the extremely entertaining Wanted created this boring retread is beyond me.  The best thing I can say about this waste is that it reminded people how well-constructed the original is.

#4 – Independence Day: Resurgence

Ab-so-lute-ly EVERYTHING about this movie can be summed up in one word, “No.”  The premise?  No.  The acting?  No.  The F/X?  No.  The release date?  Really?  This movie isn’t even bad enough to be considered a throwback to the cheesiness of the 90s.  I should have given it an F, but I digress.  Hopefully Emmerich won’t ever direct again.  What?  They’ve already announced the third sequel and a Stargate remake?  That does it, I’m raiding 20th Century Fox HQ with a shotgun in one hand and bubblegum in the other.

#3 – Ghostbusters

Hey Sony, you racist/sexist scum of the earth, how does box office failure taste?  Somehow I think that the director and writers had a lot less control over the movie than they should have.  I made it very clear in my review that I hate the response to this movie more than the movie itself (but I still hate it).  I thank God everyday this movie was not a box office success, maybe it will tell companies that audiences are NOT THAT FREAKING STUPID.  The jokes (with very little exception) are insulting and juvenile, and the characters are either stereotypes, clichés, nonentities, or pathetic cameos.  On a few levels, I can see this movie working.  For example, the designs of the ghosts have a unique style, but even that was ruined by studio-forced 3D.  Honestly, I wasn’t expecting this movie to make it so far in this list, but that’s what happens when most of a year’s bad movies are remakes, rip-offs, and sequels.  Hey guys, I have an idea, instead of remaking classics with all-women casts, why don’t you make something original with female heroes?  Maybe then your agenda message would work.

#2 – The Legend of Tarzan

Among the many movies I didn’t see in time to review, this gorilla poop was one of the worst.  Who in the name of Alexander Skarsgård’s pecs thought up this movie and how did they get it made?  Even by Hollywood’s egregious redundancy standards, what was the target audience for this boorfest?  It’s not for fans of the 1999 animated Tarzan since it’s not animated and the plot deals with adult issues, it’s not for hardcore survival enthusiasts because of the PG-13 neutering, and it’s not for people with functioning brains because of how unimaginably ridiculous it is.  While watching this movie, I never once felt like I was watching a Tarzan movie.  In an attempt to be “edgy” The Legend of Tarzan loses the fun adventure that makes up the characters’ personality.  Instead, we get all the clichés, muscly guys saving pretty women whose makeup never smears, a comedic/complaining sidekick (why L. Jackson, why?), a rich white villain who is only after money, and a whole lot a crappy CGI.  Director David Yates has a great talent of blending practical sets (the costumes, makeup, and sets are very impressive) with computer generated effects, but the CGI is way too overused in this movie.  After Mad Max: Fury Road, there is no excuse for choosing F/X over practical stunts (especially if the budget is $180 million).  Every time not-Tarzan is jumping around in the jungle, they zoom the camera out (or shake it around) and cover up the horrendous effect.  It takes the audience out of the experience when we can’t see Tarzan do Tarzan things!  The cast play caricatures instead of characters, and the plot is incoherent and redundant.  This load of idiocy gets Guy’s Guru Grade of a D-.

 

Dishonorable Mentions

  • Demolition

Pretentious and confused, Demolition wastes its talented cast (and a couple of decent ideas) on a script with no idea what to say.

Some decent voice acting and smooth animation can’t overcome shoddy character arcs, plot incoherence, and inappropriate sex puns.

If its predecessor didn’t exist, this unnecessary sequel would definitely be on the list.  That said, I stand by my belief that this movie did have more effort put into it than I thought possible.

All fan service and no direction makes movie disappoint.

Kevin Costner is legitimately good, but the movie lacks action, and the concept is half-baked.  By being shorter than Triple 9 (and less confusing), Criminal made it out alive.

If there was ever an example of DC’s ineptitude to deliver on a product, it’s this disappointing exposition dump.  Even Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, and Jeremy Irons’ performances are all cancelled out by Jesse Eisenberg’s twitchy nonsense.

  • Now You See Me 2

When it’s not kissing the feet of China (gotta get those box office greenbacks), this sequel is farting up plotholes, unnecessary new characters, and stupid visual gimmicks.  Fun Fact: the audience cannot be tricked if they are asleep.

  • Batman: The Killing Joke

From the absolutely baffling relationship between Batman and Batgirl, to the forgettable mobster villain, this adaptation fails from the very first scene.  Then again, if you cut the first 30 minutes, it would be identical to the original comic.

 

#1 – Miracles from Heaven

The cinematographer of Dances with Wolves (one of the most beautiful films of all time) shot this unfocused mess.  Yes, I am still on that!  I can’t believe how bad this movie turned out.  I was a bit hard on Jennifer Garner in the review, so I’d like to say that she was trying.  Unfortunately her character is poor and I really couldn’t have cared less.  The secondary characters are forgettable, and the overall message is contrived at best and lazy at worst.  If this movie’s message was about something like homosexuality, it would have been crucified by audiences.  I haven’t read the book, so it could be as poorly structured as 50 Shades of Grey, or as monumental as To Kill a Mockingbird.  What I do know is that the screenplay can’t create a sense of realism if it tried.  The characters are stereotypes, underdeveloped, or just poorly written.  A fatal flaw of Christian films (this is coming from a Christian, mind you), especially the ones who go out of their way to argue religion, is their one-sided rhetoric.  Obviously the movie is made for a specific audience, but at some point you have to acknowledge the counter-arguments and opposing viewpoints.  Even though the skeptic from The Conjuring 2 was a bit of a strawman, it helped ground the movie in reality and added to the drama.  In the eyes of a secular, this movie could be nothing but unexplained coincidence and forced drama.  Miracles from Heaven is definitely the worst movie of 2016.

 

In contrast to the poor films on the list you just read, the movies on my Top Test Best list are marvelous.  That list will be published in the next few days.  Your viewership has played a part in making 2016 a decent year for me, and for that I thank you.

“Sing” Review

I just realized how many Illuminati jokes I have been missing out on with Illumination Entertainment.  After all, they created the biggest child-pandering gimmick (the Minions) this side of Disney princesses.  And after the useless trash that is The Secret Life of Pets, It wouldn’t surprise me if they are trying to create a new revolution of animation that is nothing but pandering.  That is… until I watched Sing.

Sing is directed by Garth Jennings and Christophe Lourdelet and written by Garth Jennings.  Stars-Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth McFarlane, John C. Reilly, Scarlett Johannsen, and Taron Edgerton.  Premise- Buster Moon (McConaughey) is a koala whose Broadway-style musical theater is nearly out of business.  His plan is to find new talent and bring back his audience.  Problem is, he only has $1,000 to his name.  Undaunted, he decides to use that as prize money for a singing competition.

You have no idea how much this movie surprised me.  By now you know that I despise the approach to filmmaking that this production company has.  However, Sing is simply one of the most enjoyable movies I have seen from them.  This is because it was a passion project from the directors, and that really shows in the concept.

The concept is like a kid-friendly version of Birdman with a bit of High School Musical thrown in.  I love the tributes to cinema they make throughout the movie (the main character is partially named after Buster Keaton, they explain the different revolutions the industry has gone through, and the overall style of the movie feels like a behind-the-scenes documentary).  However, this concept needed much better execution.

While these characters aren’t awful, they are all clichés or stereotypes.  The angsty teenage girl, the passionate son with a disapproving father, the overworked/underappreciated housewife, the old lady who forgets things, the pretentious musician (Seth McFarlane was a perfect casting choice for this one), the shy girl with the voice of gold, etc.  You’ve seen all these stereotypes a million times, and sadly, they do little to change up these clichés, aside from given them some funny lines.  The problem that comes with these overdone characters is overdone character arcs.  You can probably predict that the jerk will get corrected, the shy girl will blow everyone away, and so on.  To be honest, that didn’t bother me too much, what did bother me was the main character’s arc.  Guess what?  It’s the “liar revealed” plotline.  Aside from being annoyingly overused, it is incredibly predictable.  There are no spoilers in my reviews, or in the premise.  You can predict that his lie (regarding the prize money) is going to lead to a whole lot of “drama” and a whole lot of wasted time that we (as an audience) know will be resolved because it always is with this stupid cliché!  Sorry, I really wish that cliché wasn’t here because “producer” character type has a lot of creative ideas around it (again, Birdman).

The biggest concern has yet to be stated: why is this thing animated with anthropomorphic animals?  I know why, animated films with animals are more profitable now than they have ever been, but there was really no need.  The gimmick of elephants and three inch tall mice singing wears off after a while and they do so little with the whole “animals take the place of humans” thing.  After Zootopia (which brilliant used it’s animal setting), I cannot let this slide anymore.  It makes just about as much sense as writing a kid-friendly New York mob tale with fish and sharks, oh wait…

That considered, the animation in this movie is breathtaking.  There will be one or two odd close-up shots here and there, but I gotta say, this stuff needs to be seen.  The character movement, the designs, the use of color, the kinetic editing, and the detail (if you look for detail in this animation, you will be greatly rewarded) in every frame is 3D at its best.

The only thing more impressive is the soundtrack and singing.  Are there over 100 pre-existing songs in this movie?  I dunno, I didn’t count.  What I do know is that, while there are many pre-existing songs in this movie, they are used to introduce us to the characters’ personalities and the songs are almost never played start-to-finish.  Unlike in Trolls, the songs actually serve a purpose and the music goes through many different genres.  This movie’s title is generic and obvious (kinda like Brave, or Frozen, or Tangled, or Hop, or Cars), but man these people can sing!  You have to sit through a lot of predictable junk in the second act, but the third act is a beautiful combination of drama, outstanding choreography and lighting, and top-notch vocal talent.  You will be just as blown away as the characters in the movie.

It ticks me off that this movie is both making less money than The Secret Life of Pets, and has a less positive critical response than that movie.  There was clearly more effort on a story level in Sing than there was in that Toy Story rip-off.  One of my notes was “I’m actually impressed” because this movie’s commercials really didn’t interest me, and with my aforementioned hatred of IE, I wasn’t expecting much (maybe that’s why I like it more than other critics).  That aside, as far as 2016 movies go, this is one of the most harmlessly fun ones out there.  Sing gets Guy’s Guru Grade of a B+.