The first Hotel Transylvania movie was one that came as quite the surprise. It was a film with actors who I'm not particularly big fans of, yet the film was actually quite sweet, funny and likeable. A sequel seemed like a good idea in theory, and it was bound to happen, but it wasn't necessary. But hey, we got one and so I'm here to review it. But is it as good as the original? Not even close, unfortunately. It's by no means a bad movie, but it's far from perfect.
The film picks up not too long after the end of the first film. Dracula's (Adam Sandler) daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez), is getting married to Jonathan (Andy Samberg), the human she fell in love with in the first film. We then montage through the next five years of their life, and it's during these five years that the two of them give birth to a baby boy, Dennis (Asher Blinkoff). The thing is... Dennis, being the child of both a human and a vampire, is a human. Dracula, being a proud vampire, isn't too keen on this, convinced that Dennis is just a late bloomer, and so when Mavis and Jonathan go away on a vacation, Dracula takes this opportunity to release Dennis' inner vampire. He's on a mission to turn Dennis into a vampire, no matter what it takes.
Just like with the first film, Hotel Transylvania 2 is a charming, funny and likeable animation and it's easily one of the best things Sandler has done in a while, excluding the first film. The Hotel Transylvania franchise, while leagues behind the films of Disney and Pixar and maybe even most Dreamworks movies, are the most entertaining films Sandler has done since Punch-Drunk Love back in 2002, although that film is a masterpiece and so it's hard to top. This second installment isn't quite as funny, nor original, as the first was, but it's still a decent film for the whole family.
For the majority of the runtime, I was a really big fan of the message they were trying to get across. It was relevant and just obvious enough for little kids to take notice, but they weren't in your face about it. It was a solid and important message, yet it's completely ruined in the final ten minutes. I won't spoil what they do wrong, but a certain event happens that just completely contradicted the message they were trying to send, and yet they continue to send this message anyway. The scene just didn't fit.
The humour this time around is less frequent and more childish than it was in the original, most of the good jokes just stolen from that film. There are a couple of solid laughs here and there, Nick Offerman's presence, while underused, worked really well, but as a whole, it's pretty hit and miss. There's a decent joke every so often, but when it comes down to it, it's severely laking in the comedy department, and the kids in my theatre weren't laughing too hard, either. So much for appealing to your demographic.
To sum up, Hotel Transylvania 2 is a charming, likeable and beautifully animated film that the whole family can enjoy, even if they contradict their own message in the finale and the jokes are rather hit and miss.
Over the course of 6 films, the Rocky franchise has had its ups and downs. The series began back in 1976, and it's here that we were first introduced to the Italian Stallion, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), a boxer trying to get himself out there. The film won best picture, and it still holds up today. It's moving, uplifting, motivational and entertaining from start to finish. Now, nearly 40 years later, we get Creed, and the Rocky franchise has never been better. Creed is a film that surpasses all of the previous sequels, managing to come so close to being on par with the original classic.
Creed is the story of a young boxer named Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), son of the late boxing world champion, Apollo Creed. He never met his father, but as his son, he had to carry on the legacy. Except he didn't want to, as evident by his change of last name. He wanted to make it into the world of boxing on his own, not relying on the name to get him overnight success, and to help do that he gets the help of an elderly Rocky, who is still working away at a restaurant. Rocky, reluctant at first, takes Adonis under his wing because he sees his potential to be greater than his father, and that's what this film is really all about. It's about Adonis attempting to rise to fame with the help of Rocky, and I loved it.
Creed marks the first time where a Rocky movie hasn't been written by Sylvester Stallone. Stallone, who intended for this franchise to end after Balboa (but I'm so glad it didn't), had no input into the creative process behind this movie. It's a new story for a new generation, written by Ryan Coogler and Aaron Covington and directed by Coogler, who's also the man behind 2013's underrated gem, Fruitvale Station. All of the Rocky movies up to this point seemed to follow a similar structure, although Creed has become the exception. Creed doesn't follow this same structure. Yes, it does have a few parallels to the original Rocky, but it makes it its own thing, resulting in a new take on the Rocky franchise. A predictable one, but an exciting one.
Taking the lead role is Michael B. Jordan, whose performance here is doing a great job at making us forget all about the abomination that was Fantastic Four. His performance is layered and has an emotional core. Jordan does a great job at employing realism into his character, and really bringing to life the connections he has with fellow cast members. The dynamic between Adonis and Rocky plays a pivotal role into this story, as well as Adonis' connections to his late father, and Jordan really sells it. You can feel everything, the impact hitting hard, and his performance even becomes a little tear jerking at times.
Taking on the role of Rocky Balboa for the seventh time is Sylvester Stallone, and he gives what my just be one of the best performances of his career. Many people have been saying his performance is worthy of an Oscar and while I personally don't think that's going to happen, if it does, I have no complaints. Rocky steps in as the father figure for Adonis and the film really relies on the relationship between the two of them. He's never the central focus of this movie, though. It's a film with Rocky in it, but it's not a Rocky movie. It's a Creed movie, and it takes a solid 25 minutes for Rocky to even appear (and that's a good thing).
What Ryan Coogler really nails in this movie is the cinematography. He uses a lot of long, tracking shots, first evident by the opening scene featuring a young Adonis. It's a long, moving take that utilises plenty of different angles while being able to clearly show plenty of on-screen action. There's also a fight about halfway through that's done all in the one shot and it's absolutely absorbing. The camera swings all around the ring, as well as to the spectators, including the cheering Rocky. For me, it's the best moment in this entire film. But it's not just the long takes that are great, either. Every shot in this film is just... well.... delicious, so to speak.
We all remember the iconic ending to Rocky. We all remember Stallone, bleeding and drenched in sweat, screaming at the top of his lungs for his beloved Adrian. We were all touched and moved by that ending, and while Creed doesn't nearly come close to having an ending as solid as that, it goes out quite well. I honestly don't know if this is going to be the last we see of the Rocky franchise, but if it is, it's quite the way to go. The ending is touching and sweet, serving as both the perfect send off and the perfect beginning. Maybe it's both. Only time will tell.
Creed is two hours and fifteen minutes long, but trust me when I say it hardly feels like an hour and a half. There's so much going on in Creed, but at the same time so little, and I love it for doing that. The same can be said about the first Rocky, as well. Both those films are merely about a boxer trying to make a name for himself and both films will go down as classics. Yes, even you, Creed. We've had plenty of boxing movies over the last few years, but none have been nearly as brilliant as Creed. It wants to stand on its own? It can stand on its own. It really is one of the best films so far this year and I'm sure it'll be on plenty of people's top 10 lists come December and January, including mine.
To sum up, Creed is the best Rocky film we've gotten since the original, and even then it's not too far behind. It's powerful, emotional, uplifting, filmed to perfection and the two leads are at the top of their games. It's a film that really packs a punch.
4 1/2 Stars
Like most of the movies I manage to see early screenings of, when I showed up to the screening for Secret In Their Eyes at the start of the month, I was made to fill out an embargo form. The embargo banned us from publishing our reviews until a particular date and time. This date was November 19 at midnight, which is the release date for the movie. When you walk into a screening and find out you can't talk about the movie until the day it comes out, it does raise a few concerns. Perhaps the movie I'm about to witness isn't as good as I hoped it would be. Or perhaps I'm about to witness a masterpiece and they don't want the film's secrets to be revealed until after it's released to the public. Well, in this case, I can assure you it's not the second one.
Secret In Their Eyes is a remake of the 2009 foreign film, El secreto de sus ojos, which translates to Secret In Their Eyes.... obviously. The film intercuts between two timelines, both revolving around an investigator named Ray (Chiwetel Ejiofor). The first takes place thirteen years ago and finds Ray attempting to hunt down the guy responsible for sexually harassing and murdering Carolyn (Zoe Graham), the daughter of fellow investigator, Jess (Julia Roberts). The second story takes place in the modern day and, again, revolves around Ray. He's been investigating the case for 13 years, looking at the faces of every caucasian male he can find, and he thinks, after all these years, that he may just have found the murderer after all.
Not having seen the original film, I was hoping for the best when it came to this film's plot. The trailer advertised it as a dark and twisted revenge story, focussing in on Jess' search for vengeance. The film is something else entirely. It's a run of the mill thriller, full of red herrings, interrogations and clichés. It's an investigator doing what he does best.... investigating. That's all there is to it. There's times where this film attempts to show these characters pushing the boundaries of the law, but the worst thing that really happens is Chiwetel Ejiofor stealing a suspect's comic book.
Unlike its promotional material, it's a film very light on action. It's a dialogue-filled slop, dragging its feet ever-so-slowly behind. It's a film that thinks it's one step ahead of you, when in actual fact you're four steps in front. All of the twists in this movie? Yeah, I saw them all coming. Nothing comes as that big of a surprise, making the build up to these twists just twice as uninteresting. In terms of plot, nothing exciting ever happens. The mystery is generic and the characters are two dimensional, the only exception being Julia Roberts, but even then, her character does things in this movie that felt very out of place.
The performances themselves, however, are truly wonderful. Julia Roberts puts her serious face on in a role that requires anger and emotion. You can tell that she is a broken character and when her daughter dies early on in the movie, it hits you. It hits you hard. While that's the only time I felt emotionally invested in this film, the scene itself is well done, Roberts giving it her a-game. As for Chiwetel Ejiofor, every time I see him in a movie, I just appreciate his acting talent more and more. His performance here is neither his best, nor his worst, but it's certainly decent. He's just not given much to work with.
Another notable addition to the cast is Nicole Kidman, and she just looks bored. Again, it's not her worst, but it's not great. Her character is generic, never getting a lot to do, and the result of that is a performance that doesn't live up to her acting capabilities. She's so much better than this. There was no need for her to do a film as formulaic and lifeless as this one, but that's the thing. This is just a lifeless movie. The direction is stale, everything looking so drab and brown. There's no energy. It just drains the life out of you, and not in a good way.
Once we do reach the film's finale, the twist we're given isn't a very good one. The whole time, I kept coming back to this prediction I had about the film's ending, and I really didn't want it to go down that path. I really didn't want it to be the twist I had a strong suspicion it would be. Unfortunately, everything was falling into place just as I had suspected. It goes down paths you can see coming a mile away and the twist fails to make any significant impact. It just happens, I rolled my eyes and the film cut to black one final time. When the film ended, I was delighted to leave the cinema.
To sum up, Secret In Their Eyes brings together a lot of talent for a film that wastes every single one of them. It's dull, lifeless and generic, the characters two dimensional and the plot predictable. It's an uninteresting film that lacks its much needed emotional connection.
Back in 2012, audiences around the world were first introduced to young Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence). Living in a dystopian future where teenagers are forced to fight to the death for the amusement of the upper class, Katniss survived the games along with a young man named Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). Audiences were then taken back to the world of the Hunger Games the following year, with Katniss and Peeta thrown back into the arena. Shit hit the fan, there were some explosions and most of the tributes got out alive. Last year, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 was released, which was more of a war film than the first two were, and it left us with quite the cliffhanger. Now, the time has come for Mockingjay - Part 2, the finale to this beloved series of movies. But does the series end with its greatest film yet? Not exactly.
There's not a big time gap between Mockingjay Part 1 and Mockingjay Part 2. In fact, there's barely even a gap. We begin in District 13, President Coin (Julianne Moore) preparing to invade the capitol. Katniss is growing tired of shooting propaganda videos, wanting to actually go out to the front lines and follow through with the many promises they've been making recently. Not only that, but she wants to take down President Snow (Donald Sutherland) once and for all, although that is not a simple task. With the help of Finnick (Sam Clafin), Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and Peeta, who has recently been brainwashed into wanting to kill Katniss, she makes her way to Snow, armed and dangerous. But Snow is prepared for her. Traps have been set up. Traps that were intended to be used in various hunger games. Traps designed to kill.
When Mockingjay Part 2 first started, the transition between films was slightly jarring. We open slowly and quietly, Katniss getting the brace around her neck removed and attempting to talk, despite having swelling all throughout her throat. The scene itself is fine, but it's no way to open a movie. It doesn't feel like an opening. Mockingjay Part 2 never once feels like its own film. It's the continuation of a story and there's no transition. Films like The Hobbit trilogy and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows were all continuing stories, but I could watch the final part of those films on their own. It's a strange experience watching Mockingjay Part 2 on its own. It just doesn't feel right.
Because of this, the first fifteen or so minutes felt a little rocky. The film failed to absorb me right away. Once it did, however, the film is rather entertaining. It doesn't manage to top the first two movies, but it does top the first Mockingjay, that's for sure. I expected this though. The Mockingjay book, and I mentioned this in my review of the first film, is not that good. It's a tedious read that felt incredibly rushed. Since the world is a cruel place, of course the most rushed of the Hunger Games books gets made into two movies. Thankfully, the screenwriters and the director managed to put together something dark, haunting and exciting. The two part film manages to out-shine the mediocre book in almost every way.
While the first Mockingjay was light on action, this time around we get an action oriented movie, and it certainly works in the film's favour. The film is nearly two and a half hours in length, but it never stops. Once you get past the first fifteen minutes, the pace is always moving forward. It's always hurtling towards its next objective, and filling up this runtime are some jaw dropping action sequences. It's brutal and unforgivingly so. The first three films are rather tame in comparison to the acts of violence shown in this film, and I love it. It puts the characters into scenarios that feel unsafe. You can always sense the danger, even in the scenes where the characters are supposedly safe. As an audience member, you just can't be sure.
Without delving into spoilers, there's a sequence towards the middle of the film that's one of the greatest scenes in this entire franchise. It starts out in a dark underground location, the characters hearing noises as they attempt to escape without making a sound. It had my heart pounding and my fists clenched. It's a nail biting scene that's followed up by the most shocking, unsettling and original action set piece in the whole film. It's been a while since I read the book and so I couldn't remember it in detail, but boy was this sequence good. Forgetting the book added to the thrills.
The relationship between Katniss, Peeta and Gale was something I really liked about the first three films. They managed to explore it rather well, yet they always held back from creating a love triangle. The Hunger Games wasn't a franchise that needed romance. It's certainly there, but it's never the central aspect of the movie, and even when there's time dedicated to showing it, it never truly comes across as something you'd see in, say, Twilight. The relationship between the three of them was always done well, and until this film's third act, it's done well here too. Obviously, I can't discuss these problems in this review, but much like I did with Spectre, a spoiler-filled article is coming after this film's opening weekend, so stay tuned for that. I have plenty to discuss.
Speaking of Peeta, when we last caught up with him, he was tied to a bed, pushing violently against his restraints. With Mockingjay Part 2, the violent maniac we were teased with never comes to light. There are certainly some moments where he has bursts of anger, and for the entire runtime he's certainly an unpredictable character, but his mayhem is never followed through with. He's always on the verge of causing a lot of pain to the people he loves, but hardly anything ever comes of it. I was hoping the movie would deviate from the books slightly, but no. Peeta's torture, brainwash and rescue hardly played a significant role in this film. He's just good ole Peeta.
Unfortunately, and I will delve into this in more detail with my spoiler discussion, the relationship between Katniss and some of the other characters doesn't end on a particularly high note. It's not that the scenes themselves are sad or dark (some of them are quite happy), but it's just that their relationships are never explored as much as they could have been. Gale is hardly seen at all in the film's final half an hour, Prim gets barely any screen time and the villainy of President Snow isn't felt as much as it was in the previous films.
That being said and done, what I did like about this film was the wrap up to Katniss' arc. It is, after all, her story. It's told from her point of view. Jennifer Lawrence is as brilliant as ever and her character feels as though she's significantly changed in comparison to the start of the first movie. You can feel her development, and her story wraps up nicely. She's working alongside some great talent, including the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman, whose absence in this film is unavoidably felt, and the always sensational Julianne Moore, yet she still manages to steal most of the scenes she's in. This is her franchise. She owns it. And I love it.
To sum up, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 ends the franchise on an imperfect high note. It doesn't manage to top the first two films of the franchise, but it's still an exciting and action packed installment that will have you hooked from start to finish.
3 1/2 Stars
There are a lot of tropes usually found in the rom com genre. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl hit it off. Boy and girl get in fight. Boy races against the clock to get back girl. Roll credits while everyone in the audience are in tears. With Man Up, it's about time you forgot those clichés. It's a rom com that grabs the clichés, pushes them forcefully into a small, chewy ball and then throws this ball across the room and watches as it bounces back into its lap. Weird description, I know, but once you see the movie, you'll know it's true.
Man Up follows the story of Nancy (Lake Bell), a single woman in her thirties who just can't hit it off with men, as evident by an extremely awkward blind date she's set up on during the start of the film. While taking a train to her parents house in London one day, Nancy sits next to a young woman, Jessica (Ophelia Lovibond), who's getting ready for a date with a man she's never met. The two intend on meeting each other using a book they've both read, but once they get to the final stop, Jessica leaves her book behind. Nancy attempts to rush through the crowds, attempting to find her and return her book, but she happens to run into Jessica's date, Jack (Simon Pegg). Not sure what to do, Nancy pretends to be Jessica, and so the two of them go on a blind date, Jack not realising he's with the wrong person.
Taking centre stage in this film are Lake Bell and Simon Pegg. They're the two actors we spent the majority of this runtime with, some characters coming and going, but none playing too major of a role. The two have phenomenal chemistry and this shows on screen. They manage to continuously encourage each other to keep the scene rolling, no moment ever feeling as if it was dragging. They bounce jokes off of each other and practically all of these jokes hit. They hit really well, as a matter of fact.
That's the thing about this movie, too. It's absolutely hysterical. There's the odd joke here and there that falls a little flat, but when Simon Pegg and Lake Bell are on screen together, everything works. It's their moments apart that aren't quite as funny. The scenes still work and I enjoyed this film as a whole, but it's nothing in comparison to the hilarity they bring when the two of them share the screen. I adore Simon Pegg in everything he's in and while I haven't seen Lake Bell in too many things, she won me over with this movie.
Watching the two of them go on this blind, and accidental, date was a joyous viewing. Watching them have fun and crack jokes, all while you know it's not going to end well, is a lot of fun to watch. The problem is, it does take a little too long to put the rest of the plot in full effect, although the film is only 88 minutes long so there's not a lot to really cut. It's not that I wanted anything to be cut, either. It's just that there's not a lot of plot development, despite the large time frame spent on it. It's not really until past halfway through the film that anything else significant happens.
This significant event introduces us to a character named Sean, played by Rory Kinnear. Rory Kinnear has played an important role in the last three James Bond movies and for that reason alone, I like him as an actor. He can act, and he clearly chooses good roles, but his character here just got under my skin. He's somewhat of a stalker who appears from Nancy's past and his character just wasn't funny. The scenes he's in are awkward and his performance is occasionally cringe-worthy. He has a couple of solid laughs, but other than that, I just wasn't a fan.
Man Up is a film that tries so hard to avoid clichés that it's kind of disappointing to find it ends on such a predictable note. Now, don't get me wrong. I liked the ending. It's sweet and touching, but it's the ending you see in every single type of movie like this. They play a hip song, there's a few touching moments and I smile. It works. I've just seen it dozens of times before, and that was a rather disappointing aspect about this otherwise decent movie.
To sum up, Man Up is a romantic comedy that plays around the clichés you'd normally find in the genre. It's hilarious, sweet and the two leads, Simon Pegg and Lake Bell, work really well together. Not a fantastic movie, but it's entertaining enough.
In 2012's Skyfall, Q (Ben Whishaw), after showing James Bond (Daniel Craig) a new gadget he's designed, Bond appears to be slightly underwhelmed by it. Noticing his disappointment, Q asks him, "were you expecting an exploding pen? We don't really go in for that anymore." Why? Because the Daniel Crag Bond films have always had a grounded sophistication to them. They've always been a tad more realistic than films such as Thunderball, which features Sean Connery's Bond taking off on a jetpack. After watching Spectre, however, it appears that the days of the grounded Bond have come to a close. It's time to return to the more over the top world of Bond, and I have mixed feelings about this return.
Spectre kicks off in Mexico, with Bond hiding out in the middle of the Day of the Dead parade. An action sequence ensures and Bond ends up with a ring. A ring that provides him with the logo of an evil organisation he's on the hunt for, despite knowing next to nothing about it. His search leads him overseas yet again, except this time he encounters a young woman named Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), the daughter of former bond villain, Mr. White (Jasper Christensen). She's well aware of what he's after and so she comes along with him as they attempt to track down Spectre, an organisation with connections to a lot of Bond's secretive past. And this organisation is led by none other than a man named Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), who also has connections to Bond. What appeared to be an everyday mission has suddenly turned into a personal endeavour, and one that will push Bond beyond his limits.
Spectre opens with one of the greatest shots in Bond history. It's a three minute tracking shot in which Bond navigates his way through Mexico city, up onto a roof and over to his target. It's quite the first impression, and the scene only manages to get better. It's an explosive opening, fuelled with action and humour. The location is gorgeous and the action taking place is even better. It fails to top the opening of Skyfall, but Skyfall has one of the best openings of any Bond film, so that's to be expected.
From here, Spectre's entire first half is phenomenal. The plot is intricate, really pulling you into the story. It's not just about the action, it's about the journey Bond is going on, and it's a journey I was thoroughly invested in. The writers of the film have tied the plot to all of the previous Daniel Craig Bond outings, plus they've added a little extra something, and the result is sensational. It's a deep and intricate plot that makes the two and a half hour runtime fly by. The final result is ultimately predictable, but getting to this point is a lot of fun.
Spectre is an action spectacle, Sam Mendes completely understanding what it takes to make an action sequence. He always manages to hit all the right beats, whether it's adding humour or successfully getting your heart pounding. There's a standout sequence that takes place in the snow and it involves a helicopter, a hill, some trees and a couple of cars. It's the best sequence in the entire movie, although the opening showdown in Mexico and a fight on a train may give it a run for its money.
As previously mentioned, Spectre brings back the Bond of old. While Casino Royale introduced us to a fresh take on the classic character, full of regret and alcoholism, Spectre brings back some of the campiness we haven't seen in a while. We have the henchman, the evil organisation, the many women who see Bond and swoon, the Vodka martini, the cool gadgets and so much more. It's not a bad thing as for the most part it works extremely well, but it just feels slightly off in comparison to Craig's previous outings. It doesn't always follow the same tone that the rebooted series already established.
Christoph Waltz stars as Oberhauser, the latest villain attempting to take down the notorious James Bond. He may be the head of Spectre, but his motives are never explained. He's evil for the sake of being evil, and this is one of the biggest disappointments about the second half of this movie. The first half, as I just stated, is utterly brilliant. There's very little of Waltz, but that works in this film's favour. It adds to the mystery and the suspense. He's a sinister figure that we know very little about. When he's finally given screen time in the second half, his character isn't developed in the slightest. Waltz does his best, but he needed more to do.
Bond, being the womaniser that he is, always gets the girl. In every single Bond film, there's always a girl. There's always someone who wins him over, and in Spectre, there's two. The first is a widow named Lucia (Monica Bellucci). I was expecting her to play a more pivotal role, but instead she just serves as an excuse to have a sex scene. For me, it personally didn't work. Their encounter felt forced. He was given information regarding the plot, sure, but the romance was added for the sake of romance and it just didn't work. She's a grieving widow who lets Bond into her bed simply because he forcefully asked her a few questions. It's something I'd expect to see in a Roger Moore Bond film, not a Daniel Craig one.
Our second Bond girl, thankfully, is a step up from the first. Léa Seydoux has slowly been making her way up Hollywood in the last few years, starting with a small role in both Inglorious Bastards and the fourth Mission: Impossible movie. She then appeared in the excellent French film, Blue is the Warmest Colour. Most recently, Seydoux had a role in Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel. She was excellent in all of those movies, and yes, she's excellent here. She's a strong female character, capable of kicking ass and looking good. She creates a vulnerability in Bond, somehow managing to make the film even more personal. She's one of the better Bond girls, in my opinion.
Taking place simultaneously to the main plot of the movie, we also follow the story of M (Ralph Fiennes) as he attempts to defend the 00 agent program from being shut down. Causing this shut down is a man named C (Andrew Scott), whose motives, like every antagonist in this movie, aren't very clear. In fact, I don't even think they exist, although does anyone really have a motive in this movie or did they just wake up one day and think to themselves, 'hey, I might be evil today?' The sub-plot does have its connections to Bond's adventure, but I can't help but feel that it dragged from time to time, taking up a little more screen time than it deserved.
Returning to the director's chair for the second time in a row is Sam Mendes, the man responsible for one of my all time favourite films, American Beauty. He's also responsible for directing my personal favourite Bond outing yet, Skyfall. That film had so much going for it, and so the hype for Spectre was high. I was immensely excited to see what was in store for us and as you're probably aware by now, it wasn't quite up to the standards of Skyfall. His directing skills are as brilliant as ever, the previously mentioned opening shot still rattling through my mind. He does a tremendous job at handling this franchise. He's just in need of a slightly better script.
On the bright side, Mendes totally nails the character of Bond. Sure, it deviates slightly from Craig's previous incarnation of the character, but in its own right, it works so well. He's evolved over the course of four films and he's currently at the point he was back in the 60s and 70s, and it appears that Mendes understands what made that character who he is, and so does Craig. He's charming, likeable and layered, and his performance here works extremely well. I still think his best Bond performance was in Casino Royale, but that's not to say his performance in Spectre disappoints. But what does disappoint is the opening title sequence. The song is catchy, but the visuals are unintentionally disturbing. Octopuses, man. Freaking octopuses.
Bond films usually go out with a bang, yet in Spectre the finale falls a little flat. It's not that the finale is necessarily bad, but it's just not fantastic. You can see all the twists and turns coming a mile away and so the stakes are never felt. You know how everything's going to play out. The finale feels like a bigger scale version of the scene in The Man With The Golden Gun where Bond is running through Christopher Lee's funhouse, of sorts. That scene worked in that movie, but this one feels slightly out of place here.
To sum up, Spectre is a return to the Bond films of old. While Craig's previous outings have been a bit more grounded, Spectre returns to the goofy fun, and for the most part, it succeeds. It just needs a better finale and more screen time for Christoph Waltz.
3 1/2 Stars
After watching the trailer for this movie, I was hesitant, but curious. The film itself looked like it had the potential to be a lot of fun and the concept was so bonkers that it might just work, but we're talking about a film from the director of Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones. For all of you who unfortunately saw that movie, that film failed very badly. It wasn't Ghost Dimension bad, but it's not at all good. Before today, I thought that that film may have just been a one off, but after seeing whatever the hell this movie was, I'm going to go out and say he's not the best director around.
Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse sounds like it should be a fun movie, doesn't it? We follow the story of three scouts; Ben (Tye Sheridan), Carter (Logan Miller) and Augie (Joey Morgan in his first feature roll). The three of them have been scouts for who knows how many years now, but Ben and Carter are starting to lose interest in it, only staying around to keep Augie company. So, during camping one night, they decide to sneak out to a party. When they get back to town, they discover that a zombie apocalypse has broken out over night. It's up to the three of them, along with a stripper named Denise (Sarah Dumont), to help take down some zombies and save Carter's sister, Kendall (Halston Sage), and her friends from being eaten alive.
This film should've been entertaining as hell. It was never going to be as good as horror-comedies such as Shaun of the Dead or Evil Dead 2, but given the premise, and just how ridiculous it is, the film could've been so much more than it turned out to be. Three scouts and a stripper taking down zombies? HELL YEAH! That should be an awesome movie. But what did we get? A clichéd and unfunny slop with poo jokes and "I'm going to fuck his mum" jokes, and unfortunately, there's also very little zombie murdering.
The film's opening scene features Blake Anderson, who you may recognise from this year's Dope or the TV show Workaholics, lip syncing to an Iggy Azalea song while erotically dancing on a mop. Starting your movie with an Iggy Azalea song is not a good sign, and yet the film somehow manages to get even worse. It's in this opening scene that we witness what I'm going to presume is the start of the zombie outbreak, or at least the reason as to why the virus spread. The scene has just about every comedy cliché you can think of. It's a game of patience as you wait for the gag you can see coming to finally happen. Oh, his chips got stuck in the vending machine? I can't wait to see them fall down as soon as he's dead.....
As for the rest of the humour, it's juvenile and predictable. From zombie penises to fart jokes, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is a film a twelve year old would find hilarious, although the film isn't even targeted at them, nor are they legally allowed to see the movie. It's Adam Sandler-type humour delivered by actors who have actually been in good movies. Tye Sheridan was a breakout star in 2012's Mud, yet in this movie his talent is completely wasted, his performance occasionally coming off as a little stale.
Perhaps it was because I'd just spent the last forty minutes bored out of my mind and my expectations were low, but there was one scene midway through the film that was actually surprisingly great. It's the most ridiculous and unexpected moment and it works so well. Without spoiling what the joke is, the scene involves our four heroes and a lone zombie they find hanging around an abandoned truck on the side of the road, and this zombie just so happens to be a Britney Spears fan. It's the only time in this movie were a joke got more than a small nose exhale out of me.
The footage primarily advertised in the trailers for this movie all featured the scouts taking a stand, creating their own weapons and kicking some zombie ass. While all of that stuff technically happens in the film, it's false advertising. The film is not an action movie. It's not even close to one. All of that action..... yeah, that all happens in the film's final act. Everything leading up to that point is a slow string of events with nothing of any significance occurring. It's dull, it's boring and it's far from funny.
To sum up, Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse takes its ridiculously hilarious premise and completely wastes it. There's very little to like about this unfunny, juvenile, slow and predictable flop, featuring very little zombie action until the finale.
Sex. Monogamy. Cheating. Drugs. Friendship. That right there is quite an accurate description of Sleeping With Other People, the latest directorial effort from the director of Bachelorette..... the movie I'm sure everybody remembers, right? Oh. Never mind. Well, she also made About Last Night. That was a bit more memorable, wasn't it? What was that? Nobody saw that movie either? Aaaaaaalrighty then. Never mind. At least people are seeing this movie, correct? They're not? Well, fuck. I just don't know anymore, man. Since when was The Last Witch Hunter a better choice than this?
Sleeping With Other People opens in 2002. We're introduced to an enraged Lainey (Alison Brie) knocking away at the door of an aspiring doctor, Matthew (Adam Scott). Despite all her best efforts, he won't let her in. Because of this situation, she meets Jake (Jason Sudeikis), and after spending the night chatting on the rooftop of a college building, the two loose their virginity to each other. Cut ahead 13 years and the two run into each other for the first time since that well remembered night. They're both in a sex meeting trying to deal with their commitment problems. The two start to hang out for a little bit, and before you know it, they're best friends. Best friends who are doing their best to stay friends. No sex for them. They're just two people, hanging out, talking about their sex life, but never actually having sex with each other. Yes, it plays out just how you'd expect.
There really aren't too many surprises with this movie in terms of plot. After hearing the premise, you pretty much know what the final scene of this movie is. And guess what? It's the exact scene you have playing over in your head right now. I don't even need to describe it. You know what it is. Thankfully, the journey there is enjoyable. There's plenty of entertainment to go around. It's just predictable as hell, trying to make everything appear as if it won't become a cliché, but it always does.
Jason Sudekis and Alison Brie are great, and the two have some excellent chemistry. While neither of their characters start out overly likeable, thanks to their witty and energetic performances, the characters grow on you. They gradually become more and more charming as the film goes on, and by the time the final credits role, I legitimately cared about them. They were interesting people and they made the somewhat sludgy journey worthwhile, although this is the type of film I'd watch once and never again. It doesn't have any rewatchability to it, unfortunately.
For a one time viewing, however, it's a decent enough experience. It doesn't break any boundaries within the rom-com genre, although it's a funny and likeable movie with a lot of charm and a hilarious scene in which the two of them get high and attend a little kid's dance party. Sure, it's in the trailer, but the scene in the film is a whole lot funnier. It's a film that manages to be your typical sleazy comedy at the same time as being a mature and heartfelt movie dealing with some serious topics. I dug it.
To sum up, Sleeping With Other People contains just about every single cliché you'd expect a movie like this to have, but it manages to throw in some serious charm and humour, resulting in a surprisingly decent movie.