movie

“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.

“Alien: Covenant” Review

Alright.  I apologize for the lack of posts lately; the complete update to my situation will be out this week.  In the meantime, we have another unnecessary Alien movie to review!  Since I already gave out my opinions on Ridley Scott in my review of The Martian, I can get right into the meat of things.

Alien: Covenant is directed by Ridley Scott and written by: Jack Paglen, Michael Green, John Logan, and Dante Harper.  Stars-Michael Fassbender, Kathrine Waterson, Billy Crudup, and Danny McBride.  Premise-The startled crew of a colony spaceship en route to inhabit a new planet discover much more than they bargained for when a distress signal leads them to a different destination.

If you thought Prometheus was a disappointment, then hold on to your jaw, cause it’s about to drop right off!  Where do I even begin, well, how about the story?  The more complicated these movies get, the more I understand why the original film was so smart.  We’ve gone from “Killer alien in a claustrophobic ship with an unprepared crew” to “Why do humans exist?  Let’s travel out to deep space cuz Guy Pearce says so.  Oh, and there’s aliens.  Can’ forget that.”  Needless to say, I think the franchise has forgotten the “point.”  Either that or the scripts for Blade Runner 2049 and Alien: Covenant was switched.  If so, I can’t wait to see Sebastian from La La Land fight a Xenomorph.  Honestly, this movie is stuck so far up its own butt; I’m surprised it wasn’t written by the Wachowskis.

You’ll notice very quickly that Alien: Covenant forgoes terror and scares for a lot of sciency gibberish and *ahem* philosophy.  Basically, Billy Crudup will spout something Mr. Scott thinks is something Christians would say, and he is branded “insufferable” and constantly beaten down by the reality of science (aka, contrived screenwriting).  You’re not gonna believe this, but I just summed up the movie’s underlying theme in one sentence.  This wouldn’t be a problem if the movie was focused on scaring you rather than talking your ears off.  Now, I understand that (God-forbid) we should be getting more intelligent horror films nowadays, but Alien: Covenant is simply putting all of its eggs into the same flimsy basket.  A basket that promises classic thrills and plenty of terror, but is in fact, very, very empty. Well, except for one particular egg.

I’m sorry, that metaphor was way to Shyamalany.  What I’m getting at is that Michael Fassbender is awesome in this movie.  He was one of the best things about Prometheus, and they give him much more to work with.  Unfortunately, these characters are more asinine than the entirety of TLC programs.  Remember how there were only 8 characters with unique personalities, memorable traits, and interesting actors in the original?  Well, Alien: Covenant has 12+ forgettable, boring, obviously-exist-only-to-die characters.  Only McBride and Fassbender stand out because both actors have charisma.  If you thought those two guys from Prometheus were obvious horror pawns, then prepare to rage (or in my case, be bored-to-sleep) at how many characters show up, speak one expositional sentence, then die.  Not only is this formula tedious to sit through (since the pacing sucks), but it’s an amateur approach to filmmaking, not befitting of the legendary Ridley Scott.  Speaking of which, this movie treats its audience like morons.  Every teen-slasher cliché can be found here, the characters make pants-soilingly dumb decisions, and the “twist” is something you’ve seen in countless other sci-fi films.  Also, what they do to Shaw’s character from Prometheus is… well.  Remember what they did to “wrap up” Will Smith’s character in Independence Day: Resurgence?  Yeah, that’s how disrespectful it is.

It’s really a shame.  I can see the effort behind the movie in the cinematography, sets, Fassbender/McBride’s performances, and F/X, but there’s too much talking, the characters are idiots, and I can only remember being in suspense for 5 minutes in a 120 minute film.  As for Scott, either keep your deep philosophy in movies like Exodus: Gods and Kings and Blade Runner, or talk to me.  I’d love to tell you about a great guy named Jesus Christ.  Alien: Covenant gets Guy’s Guru Grade of a C-.

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” Review

I wonder how long it’ll be until Marvel finally kills off some of its main characters.  Only at that point will their cinematic universe truly open to new stories.  I say this because the formulas for the modern superhero movie are slowly making each installment more predictable.  In the meantime, we have a film that screams “capitalization.”  Either that or it’s just a sequel that pales in comparison to its predecessor.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is written/directed by James Gunn.  Stars-Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Kurt Russell, Michael Rooker, Vin Diesel, and Bradley Cooper.  Premise-During one of their adventures (and getting into trouble at the same time), the Guardians learn more about their leader’s (Star-Lord) childhood.

The biggest problem with Guardians 2 is the writing.  No offense to Gunn (whose ideas started the trend of superhero movies having retro soundtracks), but this script needed another brain working on it.  Perhaps you see it differently, but this film felt really awkward to me.  Some of the jokes felt rushed or were not delivered well; especially whenever they try to use profanity (the PG-13 rating neuters some of these jokes).  It’s difficult to phrase, but the movie doesn’t have the flow of the original.  One thing that attributes to that is the terrible cutting.  I don’t know if it was written or edited this way, but there are many scenes that cut away at inopportune times.  For example, Star-Lord is about to learn something critical about his past, but the scene randomly cuts to the subplot involving Yondu.  I wouldn’t mind as much if this was a one-time thing, however, this occurs at least 3 times.  It kinda ruins the moment.  Still, the movie isn’t without its charm.

The cast may actually be better this time around.  That’s because they have much more development.  I don’t know why critics are saying the characters aren’t fleshed out; there are more character-focused scenes than actiony, space ones.  The first movie was similar to a television pilot in terms of character.  We got their backstories, personalities, and some interplay between them.  This movie bumps it up a notch.  The drama is outstandingly affective, and it kept the movie from getting boring.  Bautista, Rooker, and Cooper, especially get to shine with their material.  Which is great considering the action sequences and CGI are way too cartoony this time around (but the sets are fantastic).

Well, that was short.  Sorry if you were expecting 20 paragraphs of in-depth criticism, but that’s really all I have to say.  In essence, it’s not as good as the first one.  Heck, the soundtrack isn’t one-fifth as memorable as the first.  The best comparison I can come up with is the difference between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back movies.  The first was much more fun and action-packed, while the second was darker and focused on the characters.  That said, most people prefer Empire Strikes Back, so I’ll let you decide if time Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is worth your time.  But for me, it gets Guy’s Guru Grade of a B.

“The Circle” Review

The Circle is directed by James Ponsoldt and written by James Ponsoldt and Dave Eggers.  Stars-Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, John Boyega, and Bill Paxton.  Premise-A woman snags a job at the biggest company in the world (the Circle).  No sooner has one week passed and she can tell something is amiss about the bucolic establishment and its agendas.

Wow is this movie a backfire!  Not a misfire, a great-aim-but-blows-up-in-your-face backfire.  I may fly off the handle later in the review, but considering how serious the movie is taking itself, I’d say it is warranted.  The themes and issues the film talks about are very important, and the treatment they give it is nothing short of botched.  Let’s start with the presentation.

Try as the filmmakers might, they cannot achieve the level of suspense created by other films of the “sinister corporation investigated with a twenty-something intellect as the lead” genre.  While I could point out every single comparison to The Social Network (like the electronica score and a socially awkward young intellectual getting into a prestigious corporation), that would be too easy, instead, I’ll go over how The Circle (wow that’s a boring title) fails on its own merits.

To start, the performances are quite lackluster.  With the exception of Bill Paxton who plays Watson’s dad (who has multiple sclerosis) and does the part with sympathy, charm, and good humor, everyone is collecting a paycheck.  Watson is bland, Hanks is barley in the movie, and the supporting cast is extremely awkward.  Most of the movie follows the infamous “tell don’t show” style of filmmaking; that is, all exposition, no action.  Unfortunately, the film has no idea how to maintain, or create for that matter, suspense and the result is a painfully slow 110 minutes of bland characters talking.  This is only a fraction of The Circle’s failures.  The real badness lies in the message.

*Before I continue, let it be known that any plot points I bring up are in the trailers*  Basically, the entire goal of the Circle is to have universally access to everything happening at all times with everybody.  This is achieved via tiny cameras placed anywhere and everywhere.  There would be no more secrets, and the word “private” would be nonexistent.  Yeah, if your initial emotion is fear, then your second is confusion.  The biggest problem with this movie is how unbelievably unbelievable it is.  There could be some business practices that I’m not aware of, but there is no conceivable way that this companie’s plan could be carried out in any form of reality.  The film takes itself so dang seriously, but it fails to account for things like: religious/moral beliefs, the law, age, race, social status, and human nature!  The nail in the coffin is the fact that we just had a movie about how corporations spying on us are wrong.  I think it was based off a famous fugitive… a privileged intellectual who got into a super influential organization… I think it had social commentary as well… oh yeah!  It was Snowden in 2016.  That same year, Jason Bourne and Now You See Me 2 used that message as a subplot.  Answer me this, if this message has been universally written about and discussed (it’s still a hot-button topic today), how can so many people buy into the Circle’s idea of no personal freedom or privacy?  It’s based on a book.  Well, then the screenwriter should have adjusted for what changed in the world (as the novel was published in 2013), or *GASP* write an original movie!  I already have a premise, set the film after the plan for world transparency has been enforced, and go from there.  At the very least it would be something we’ve never seen before.

This script came from the back alleys of Tumblr, I just know it.  Not only can you predict every twist and turn of this plot, but the social commentary is extremely propagandized and over-the-top.  Instead of subtle storytelling and detailed exposition scenes, we get one-sided fallacies posing as intellectual arguments.  What makes it even worse is how PC the movie is.  I stated that this movie (whose only non-white main character has all of 5 minutes on-screen) ignores variables like race, laws, and whatnot.  Well, it’s also very ethnocentric.  I can imagine showing this movie to different cultures around the world and seeing them look at it with confused/unconcerned expressions.  I wouldn’t care so much about this if the movie didn’t constantly act like, “This could really happen!  Be scared!”  Obviously, our world ain’t perfect, and technology has been abused by many to gain access to other people’s information.  However, The Circle seems to forget, the generation it’s aiming for distrusts big businesses almost as much as the government.  What makes it worse is that the characters are too bland to be relatable.  Watson’s character can’t seem to decide if she’s for or against the Circle.  Her character arc is extremely rushed, most of the supporting cast is simply forgotten about, and the ending fails to conclude each  character’s story.  Oy, what a mess.

The most you’ll get out of this movie is a reminder to keep your computer’s security system up-to-date; and a bit of contempt for the careers of everyone involved with the film.  Except for Paxton of course; that man couldn’t give a bad performance if he tried.  The Circle gets Guy’s Guru Grade of a D.

Ok, so where the heck have I been?  In short, I finished my final exams and the Top Ten Best Study Soundtracks list in the same week and it left me completely drained.  It took me some time to acknowledge it, but I needed a rest.  Not helping was trying to write this review in my exhausted state.  I scrapped at least 3 drafts of this review because I couldn’t get enough energy to complete it; the results were unsatisfying.  To remedy this, I took last week off.  Now I’m back to work and ready for action.  There is much more going on in my life, but that will have to wait for another post.  Also, I will get to reviewing Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 as soon as I can.

“Fate of the Furious” Review

I have a confession to make: I haven’t seen: 2 Fast 2 Furious, Tokyo Drift, or the 2009 Fast & Furious.  I say this because Fate of the Furious is more continuity-heavy than Furious 7 (and because I’m honest with my audience).  In addition, Fate of the Furious is not as simply enjoyable as Furious 7.  Yeah, that’s a good intro.

Fate of the Furious is directed by F. Gary Gray and written by Chris Morgan.  Stars-Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Scott Eastwood, Tyrese Gibson, Charlize Theron, Chris Bridges, and Kurt Russell.  Premise-Dom’s crew must track down their leader after he goes rogue for a mysterious woman.

Yes, greedy Hollywood producers have predictably stomped on a dead actor’s grave while greenlighting 100 more unnecessary sequels.  Even though the tagline for the previous film was, “One last ride,” the plot wrapped up nearly every character’s arc, and the emotional ending that brought tears to audiences eyes were all clearly saying, “That’s all folks,” you cannot argue with the 1.5 BILLION dollars Furious 7 grossed.  Because of this, we have an action film that pushes the envelope in more ways than one.

I know I’ll be called a hypocrite for thoroughly enjoying Furious 7 and then disliking the sequel (even though they are basically the same movie), but here is the game changer: the amount of drama.  In Furious 7, the most serious it got were those amnesia flashbacks.  However, things get really personal with Fate of the Furious.  Charlize Theron (collecting her paycheck while sporting a really stupid haircut) plays the villain whose entire character is written straight out of “Psychopathic Antagonist” Volume 1.  She speaks only in evil whispers, has a weird character design, and manipulates the main protagonist by using the most predictable cliché in the book (can’t say it because of spoilers, but you could probably guess what she does).  These movies are at their best when the drama is light and the over-the-top action is high.  Sadly, every scene with Theron is very hard to watch.  Not to say that what she does to Dom is a bad motivation; it’s because these movies should never be this depressing to watch.  Especially when these scenes are preceded/followed by the goofy characters joking around.  To be honest, I would have enjoyed the movie much more as a whole if these scenes were cut, because once my suspension of neutrality is broken, other problems stand out much more.  One of these problems is the clichés.  Unbelievable physics and invulnerable characters are acceptable (if you watch any of these movies expecting realism, show yourself out), but you can predict pretty much every scene, and that is a bore.

On the bright side, the action scenes are awesome!  If the previous film was too unbelievable for you, the races, chases, and shootouts are well-choreographed and fast-paced.  If you switch off your brain (a requirement at this point), these action sequences are a marvel.  Heck, the New York portion of the film is more over-the-top than any GTA 5 stunt video you’ll ever see.  Another notable scene takes place in a prison, and it gives The Rock his most awesome movie moment since the montage in The Rundown.  The rest of the cast is decent as well.  While Gibson and Bridges teeter on the edge of annoying and funny, Eastwood/Russell and Statham/Johnson have great chemistry, and the rest of the cast is fine.

Ultimately, this movie is exactly what you’d expect.  Transformers levels of stupidity, clichéd plotlines, and a whole lot of testosterone-fueled explosions.  If the filmmakers didn’t inappropriately try their hand at drama, then the film would require nothing from its audience.  After all, that’s why these movies are successes: dumb fun without the emotional connection.  Fate of the Furious gets Guy’s Guru Grade of a C-.

“Going in Style” (2017) Review

What do you get when you cross Tower Heist, that guy from Scrubs, and three Best Supporting Actor Oscar winners?  The answer is: something that should be amazing, but sucks in execution.

Going in Style (2017) is directed by Zach Braff and written by Theodore Melfi.  Stars-Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, Matt Dillion, Christopher Lloyd, Joey King, and Ann-Margaret.  Premise-After losing their pensions because of “generic Evil Corporation #9001,” three retirees decide to rob a bank to get their money back.

Apparently this movie is a remake of the 1979 Martin Brest film of the same name.  Whatever.  Either way, this movie is underwhelming.  Allow me to weep for the crappy few weeks we’ve had in film.  At this point, all I can hope for is entertainment without the stupidity or half-heartedness (this is why I chose Going in Style to review).  The actors know they aren’t winning any Oscars for this movie, but at the very least they could provide some decent humor.  Alright, alright.  Let’s get down to business.

If you are 90% of humanity, then you are only interested because of the ensemble cast (as if they alone can save this crap script).  To their credit, Freeman, Caine, and Arkin work really well off each other.  No one in this movie delivers laugh-out-loud jokes, but these guys are at least funny.  That cannot be said for the supporting cast, who are either one-note clichés, pitiful cameos, or annoying stereotypes (poor Christopher Lloyd).

Despite being 90 minutes long, Going in Style is as slow as a 70 year old man taking a piss.  If you giggled (or groaned, it doesn’t matter) at that rather offensive joke, then you will have gained the maximum amount of laughs Going in Style will give you.  If you watch the movie on DVD, take a shot every time a joke boils down to “ha ha, old people!”  By the halfway point, you’ll be more drunk than Melfi was when he wrote the screenplay.  Not to hate on the guy, but the fact that the writer of Hidden Figures (a movie about breaking stereotypes and preaching against prejudice) followed it up with a comedy built on stereotypes and a fair amount of racist jokes is hilarious.

I’d be nicer to the movie if it had an original bone in its body.  Aside from being an unnecessary remake, the plot is stolen from Tower Heist and Hell or High Water: the former is funnier, and the latter is more realistic.  Going in Style tries to be a hybrid of sympathetic drama and causal comedy.  Sadly, the drama is manufactured and the humor is lazy.  The climax acts all smart and emotional, but it’s actually very stupid and clichéd.  That sums up the movie perfectly, stupid and clichéd.

Despite all that I have said, there is an audience for this movie.  I know this because the 50+ year old people in my auditorium were having a great time (albeit extremely loud and obnoxiously).  If you can make it past the clichés and poor pacing (provided you are not a millennial), then you might enjoy yourself.  And hey, my experience wasn’t all bad; I discovered that my theater has some dang good sweet tea.  Going in Style gets Guy’s Guru Grade of a C-.

“Ghost in the Shell” (2017) Review

Originally, I was going to review The Boss Baby, but Murphy’s law wrecked my plans so here we are.  While this movie has been reviewed by freaking everybody, I think my point of view will provide a differing opinion to those who are familiar with the source material.  That’s right; I have not read or watched any of the original Ghost in the Shell manga (or anime, whatever).  That means I went into this movie with absolutely no idea what to expect (aside from the first teaser trailer).  Upon leaving the theater, this was my thought: “That was decent.”

Ghost in the Shell is directed by Rupert Sanders and written by: Jamie Moss, William Wheeler, and Ehren Kruger.  Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbæk, ‘Beat’ Takeshi Kitano, Peter Ferdinando, and Juliette Binoche.  Premise-After an accident, a woman’s brain is placed into a cybernetic body for the use of hunting down criminals.

Not to get ahead from myself, but this movie can be summed up as “an above-average action sci-fi flick.”  The manga may or may not be better than the film, but the general consensus does not like the live-action movie.  As we leaned with the Inferno movie, adaptations should be good in their own right.  Competent storytelling, compelling characters, and excellent visuals are not something that should not be difficult to recreate.  Luckily, GITS has the visual aspect in droves.  The costumes, designs, and color pallet are very interesting.  Stylization this intense is hard to come by nowadays, so I appreciate how they visualized the manga for the silver screen.  What’s even more impressive are the action sequences.  Slow-motion “bullet time” allows the impeccable F/X to impress, even in 2D.  To accompany every scene, we have one of the best movie scores of the 2010s.  If you love Vangelis’ Blade Runner music, Tangerine Dream, or electronica, then you will probably nerdgasm over this Lorne Balfe/Clint Mansell score.  I’m not even going to attempt to tell you how excellent it is, just watch the film (or buy the soundtrack when it’s released).

Despite the technical achievements, the problems of this movie lie entirely in the screenplay.  I don’t know (or care) how faithful it is to the manga, but it’s without a doubt, very clichéd.  We have: a bad guy who bears a shocking resemblance to Amon from The Legend of Korra, corrupted corporate officials, framed police officers, and a whole lot of copy-pasted “robotic sci-fi” genre clichés (like the scene where they wonder what it’s like to feel human).  There are a few scenes that should have been cut, the climax is not as big as it should be, and the symbolism is painfully obvious (what do you know, an American action film with all the subtly of a middle finger to the audience).

The actors are not much better.  Only the great Takeshi Kitano stands out because he takes command of every scene.  Sure, Johansson (btw, they do explain why she’s not Asian) looks pretty, but that does not translate to good acting.  Admittedly, she is mostly robotic, so I don’t expect Viola Davis levels of passion, but something other than “blank stare” would be nice.

There you are, one short and sweet review.  Despite the annoying faults, the entertainment value is pretty high.  There are enough interesting ideas and likable characters to turn this into a franchise.  After all, isn’t that what they wanted to do with it in the first place?  Ghost in the Shell (2017) gets Guy’s Guru Grade of a B-.

“Power Rangers” (2017) Review

I can’t come up with a fresh intro, so here is some context.  I love the Power Rangers shows!  Campy, but fun; formulaic, but entertaining; they serve as very fond childhood memories of mine (S.P.D. and Samurai were my favorite generations).  When they announced a film adaptation, I had the usual Internet response: insta-rage.  Not only did they hire the director of Project Almanac (loads of potential, crappy execution), but the script went through multiple writers before being turned into a 2 hour screenplay that is supposed to set up a universe which rivals that of Marvel.  Well, if Lionsgate wants to milk 6 sequels out of this movie, it better grab the audience’s attention with likable characters, a clever plot, and jaw-dropping visuals.  Or they could just rip-off Chronicle.

Power Rangers is directed by Dean Israelite and written by: John Gatins, Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless, Michele Mulroney, and Kieran Mulroney.  Stars-Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Ludi Lin, Becky G., Elizabeth Banks, Bill Hader, and Bryan Cranston.  Premise-A group of high school students come across some otherworldly technology and after an accident, come away from it with superpowers.  As per the ususal, now they must save the world.

I should probably preface this review by saying that I don’t recall all the lore and characters from the entire franchise.  I’m not even certain which generation this movie is based on.  However, I know what made the series’ work, and thus, I reside in the section of the audience who grew up with the originals.  In addition, I understand the main concern people had with the movie ever since the freaking costumes were released: “Is it going to take itself too seriously?”  The charm of this franchise comes from the corniness and lighthearted tone.  To turn that into an obnoxiously serious, brooding drama would result in… Batman v Superman (and we all know how well that one turned out).  To make things perfectly clear, being “dark” is not the problem, poor screenwriting is.  How can The Dark Knight be universally praised for its dark tone and adult themes while Batman v Superman is despised for its somber style and gloomy character arcs?  Aside from the fact that Christopher Nolan is an angel from cinema heaven; The Dark Knight developed its characters and didn’t spend half the dialogue setting up future installments.  In the case of Power Rangers, it’s definitely darker than the shows, but they balance it out with plenty of humorous moments.  Unfortunately, the movie isn’t very good at comedy, or action, or pacing, or…

Despite these young actors trying their hardest, the material they’re given is garbage.  I made the comparison to Chronicle because Power Rangers follows its first act to a T.  These characters are extremely clichéd high school stereotypes.  Subsequently, we get to see all the gloriously overdone character arcs and easy-to-write backstories that come with them.  I’m not going to pretend that the shows had mind-blowing characters, but they had plenty of charm.  These guys literally spell out what their main character trait is “I’m insane!”  “What’s up crazy girl?”  “The ‘golden boy’ of our little town.”  It makes for some extremely unengaging characters.  I’ll admit, there is a lot of time dedicated to character development, but what we get is not very original.  It doesn’t help that 80% of the dialogue is painfully bland exposition.

Despite the character faults, the action could make up for it.  Ughhhhhh; that’s where the other half of the problems lie.  While the F/X and costumes are decent, it takes forever for us to actually see the Power Rangers!  You have to sit through 90 slow minutes of boring high school ridiculousness before any cool stuff happens.  Also, the pacing is yawn-inducing, and the camerawork is crappy (ugly Dutch angles, shaky cam, the usual).  What’s especially aggravating is the third act.  More clichés are abused!  We get a fake out death (it’s not a spoiler because you know the movie won’t actually do it), followed by one of the worst examples of “Talking Killer Syndrome” (a term crated by Roger Ebert to describe bad guys who monologue instead of kill), and a very disappointing climax.  The fight choreography is ok and the scale is fun, but the battle sequence ached for more time devoted to it.  Hopefully the sequels are more action-drewn, but this movie never measures up to the potential.  Honestly, it would have been outstanding if it was directed by Edgar Wright.  The source material would be perfect for his style of humor.  He can do action quite well (Scott Pilgrim, Hot Fuzz), and the genre lends its way for clever satire.  Sadly, I ain’t that lucky.  With that, the review is over.

Is Power Rangers an unnecessary adaptation that’s worth your time (like Warcraft or 2016’s The Magnificent Seven)?  Or is it an unnecessary adaptation that you should burn with hellfire (Maleficent, 2016’s Ghostbusters, Assassins Creed, 2015’s Vacation, etc.)?  That is entirely up to you.  In my (packed) theater, the parents looked bored, but the kids were having a blast.  Most critics don’t like the film, but most audiences enjoyed it.  As for me, there was not enough cool stuff to overshadow the blandness.  Then again, I did sit though Monster Trucks and Life (2017) so a film about angsty teens talking to Bryan Cranston’s wall-face doesn’t seem too bad.  Power Rangers gets Guy’s Guru Grade of a C+.

“Life” (2017) Review (SPOILERS)

*stammering in shock*  I… uh, how?  In the name of all things original and competent, HOW IS THIS MOVIE EVEN A THING?!  Alright, I need to slow down for a second; here’s the context.  I watched Power Rangers and I’ve already started the review on it.  For those aching for that review, the movie is essentially 50% crap, 50% cool stuff.   Then I watched Life in search of mindless enjoyment and nothing else.  Surely I can at least be entertained by modern Hollywood right?  Upon leaving the theater, I had more passionate anger than I did with the Ghostbusters remake.  Before we get into the criticism, I’m warning you, there will be a lot of rage in this review, and I’m NOT going to apologize for it.  The incompetence of this movie is inexcusable!  Ok, here we go.

Life is directed by Daniel Espinosa and written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick.  Stars-Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ryan Reynolds, Olga Dihovichnaya, and Ariyon Bakare.  Premise-After discovering an intelligent, sentient organism in Mars samples, a crew of astronauts/scientists conduct various tests to see if it responds.  When it turns out to be a hostile, rapidly evolving creature, it becomes a game of cat-and-mouse on the spaceship as the crew fights for their lives.

The opening scene shows promise; displaying some decent (but average by the standards set by Gravity, Interstellar, and Rogue One) F/X.  One Brian De Palma-style tracking shot later and our sci-fi clichéachers (i.e. clichéd characters) have been introduced.  The aloof one (Gyllenhaal), the protocol controlling leader (Ferguson), the scientist who treats the alien like his child (Bakare), the joke-maker who’ll die first (Reynolds), the Asian who speaks in technobabble (Sanada), and the other one you completely forgot about (Dihovichnaya).  Your first thought is probably, “Well, the ensemble cast is probably great.”  No.  What he have is a wasted ensemble cast.  I am so sick of the mindset that a great cast can save a movie and/or terrible writing.  Should not the actors be chosen on the basis of how well they can play a specific character as opposed to, “Hey, let’s cast Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal.  They practically add 50 brownie points to any movie they’re in.”  I am 100% sure that, if this movie didn’t have such great thespians, critics would call it, “A generic genre flick whose decent visuals cannot overcome predictable plotting and stolen ideas.”  Oh, we’ve just begun the brutal spanking of this movie.  Let’s get into the story.

In essence, these guys have come across a living cell in Mars samples gathered by robotic scouts.  They nurse the organism back to consciousness (using various sciency things) and all seems well.  They even broadcast an update to Earth, where a randomly selected elementary school decides to name it “Calvin.”  Soon after, things begin to go wrong.  From there, the rest of the movie is; character dies brutally, Calvin disappears, coming up with a plan, plan goes wrong, character dies brutally.  Rinse and repeat.  In between that, we get to enjoy a cliché sandwich topped with idiocy and a side order of plagiarism.

Remember how the crew in Alien was mostly miners/explores?  It made sense that they would not be outfitted for (or expecting) an alien attack.  You could fell the pure terror and confusion.  In Life, some the best minds (as represented by our ethnically/nationally diverse cast) on Earth are up there.  Yet, they find it in themselves to make EVERY DUMB DECISION IN SCI-FI HORROR HISTORY!  It’s pointless to list them off because you, the casual reader, have already guessed some of them in your head.  I don’t care how much stress you’re under, anyone with half a brain knows not to: split up, try to save someone beyond saving, or go into the room with the murderous alien monster!!!   With the exception of the scientist guy, every character that dies does so by sacrificing themselves.  This is one of the many things the filmmakers don’t understand, a sacrifice needs to be built up and done only once.  When every freaking person is doing it, the impact is lost.  It doesn’t help that the pacing is far too slow for this bare-bones plot.

I mentioned Alien earlier, but not the fact that this movie is a rip-off.  Some critics defend Life by saying that it took inspiration from Alien as opposed to directly ripping it off.  Actually, that is only our nostalgic minds that tell us every horror movie in space is automatically a rip-off of Alien.  I don’t think anyone else has pointed this out; Life is a rip off of John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982).  From discovering an alien that was trapped in the ground of a planet, to said alien being extremely difficult to find/kill, to the secondary conflict being “We cannot let this thing get to the rest of humanity.”  Nice try director of frickin Safe House, I noticed the uncanny similarities, and I don’t tolerate them.  Speaking of The Thing (one of the best horror movies in history), that movie worked because the alien had a weakness, and the characters didn’t give it a non-terrifying name.  Throughout the bloated runtime of Life, the characters keep reminding the audience that Calvin is near-indestructible and keeps evolving (minus points for treating the audience like idiots).

Now we arrive at the last third, and this is where I decided to review it over Power Rangers.  Throughout the film, I was waiting for that scene in most horror survivors where the characters come together and formulate a plan to kill the monster.  Obviously, Calvin cannot be killed with fire, or the emptiness of space, so it looks like it’s going to be a battle of wits (which would have been an excellent way to take the narrative).  After all, the characters told us that Calvin is intelligent at least 20 times.  For whatever reason, it takes until the last two survivors to come up with a clever trap.  Yeah, yeah, they had a few attempts before the climax, but the only plan that actually has a chance of working is the one made by Gyllenhaal (let’s be honest, you only see the actor, nor the character).  He and Ferguson are the only two left, the ship is running low on oxygen, and Calvin is still around.  Gyllenhaal then tells Ferguson that he will lure Calvin to escape pod A with oxygen flares (Calvin requires oxygen) where he will trap Calvin inside with him, jettison the pod, and manually fly it away from Earth.  Ferguson will take escape pod B and attempt re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.  Unfortunately, their pods fly off course.  Ferguson’s pod malfunctions and she flies off into deep space, and Gyllenhaal lands on Earth with Calvin who appears to be creating a nest inside the pod.  Ferguson screams, and Gyllenhaal shouts “No!”  as a wide shot shows us some fishermen boats coming towards the pod accompanied by Jon Ekstrand’s (taking lessons from the Mica Levi school of long chords) loud score.  Cut to black, and we’re treated to the song “Spirit in the Sky” (can we stop using this dang song in movies?).

Alright, where do I freaking start?  To start, of all the things that go wrong, the pods hit random debris as they fly.  Earlier, another ship collided with their vessel, and the result was some debris being sent into space.  However, the exact moment when the pods hit the debris is far too coincidental, especially since the rest of their flight had no issues whatsoever.  But what really gets me is the ending.  From the get-go, I knew this wasn’t going to have a happy ending (again, Life is very clichéd), but this screenplay is so bad, my dad (who saw it with me) came up with a better ending.  “What if Gyllenhaal wanted to take the alien to Earth?”  Think about it!  From the start of the movie, we know he doesn’t like other people.  He’s about to set a record for most days in orbit, and he has taken on more radiation than the human body can handle (implying that he will die soon).  In addition, some of his last words to Ferguson are “I belong up here.  You think I want to go back down to those 8 billion mother***ers?”  Heck, he dislikes humanity because of war, mistreatment, and overpopulation.  Bringing the alien to Earth could have been his way of “cleansing” it and starting anew.  Not only is that a ballsy, jaw-dropping twist, it would have eliminated the debris plothole (instead, he would have pushed Ferguson out into space as re-entered the atmosphere), and his character would have been much more interesting.  If done properly, the audience would have never seen it coming!  Ugh!  Such wasted potential!

*listens to Hans Zimmer’s S.T.A.Y. and cools down*  Alright, to be fair, I may be demanding perfection from a movie that, for better or worse, is basic entertainment.  This is a problem of mine; I don’t classify many movies as average (which is the reality) and instead go for the extremes.  Despite this, I want to believe that we are beyond the action nonsense of the 90s and the space obsession of the 70s.  We are now in a much more story-driven era where audiences have matured and expectations are higher.  This is why I hate the term “popcorn flick” it’s an excuse for a movie to be dumb so long as it doesn’t offend you or be too serious.  Life doesn’t know if it wants to be mindless fun, or dramatic sci-fi.  Because of this, I cannot enjoy it.  The writing isn’t intelligent enough to be moving, and the horror elements are stolen.  Even the one thing that could have given the film an identity of its own, the aforementioned twist, wasn’t there.  My Power Rangers review will be out on Thursday, but for now, Life gets Guy’s Guru Grade of a D.

“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.