SPECTRE Review: The Author of Your Pain

SPECTRE_w300SCORE: 5.0 (MEDIOCRE)

RATED: PG-13 (intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, sensuality and language)

NOT IN 3D

RPX? NOT GOOD ENOUGH MOVIE FOR THE PRICE

Maybe it’s because of how excited I was for SPECTRE, the 24th film in the Bond franchise, but SPECTRE is so disappointing that it makes Avengers: Age of Ultron feel like a worthy sequel. Gone is the dark, cerebral storytelling and the realistic, but still silly action that drove previous Craig Bonds, and gone is the likable Bond girl with whom Craig actually had some chemistry. Spectre plays out more like a Roger Moore Bond film, rather than a Craig Bond film, which ultimately makes Spectre a silly, dull and predictable journey. The film is also terribly overlong, and the length isn’t at all necessary, making the film not only silly, but also mind numbingly boring. SPECTRE also features the worst Bond villain in the Craig era, Blofeld. Blofeld seemed promising especially since he’s played by 2 time Oscar winner Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds, Django: Unchained), but his part is painfully underwritten and every twist that he unveils feels cheap and as if it was done without any concern for what the fans want. With all of that bad, there is still some good, which is why there’s a 5 at the top of the page and not a 3. The opening scene is great, it looks beautiful, it’s funny and it gets your heart pumping while still mixing in some humor. If the rest of the film had been as good as the intro, SPECTRE might have been able to stand with Casino Royale and Skyfall, which are the series’ best in my opinion. The camerawork is also well done, fitting in some truly inspired shots. The Bond song, unlike the catchy Skyfall theme is also mediocre, with weak lyrics and an uninspired melody. Overall, if you think that the Craig Bond films are too realistic, gritty and smart and you wish the convenient plots, one-sided villains and ridiculous action were still present in the series, then SPECTRE is for you, however if you don’t fall into that category, then I’d wait for this to come on streaming if I were you.

Pros

  • Great opening scene
  • Well cast
  • Decent camerawork
  • Craig is an excellent Bond

 

Cons

  • Ridiculous plot
  • Abundant convenience
  • Overlong
  • Underused Christoph Waltz
  • Weak Bond girl
  • Many quips don’t land
  • Whole supporting cast wasted

 

Ant Man Review: Small Hero, Big Surprise

antman_w300SCORE: 9.25 (EXCELLENT)

RATED: PG-13 (sci-fi action violence)

3D NOT NEEDED

SOUNDED GREAT IN RPX

You may have heard about some of the issues that Ant Man (directed by Peyton Reed) experienced during development, especially the infamous Edgar Wright situation involving Marvel drastically changing Wright’s passion project that was Ant Man. You may have been disappointed by the fact that Scott Lang is Ant Man in this film and not Hank Pym, and you may have heard that this is the lowest grossing Marvel movie since the mediocre Incredible Hulk. Cast your fears aside, because Ant Man is one of the best Marvel movies to date, featuring a charismatic lead, great special effects, excellent pacing, and great tie-ins to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Ant Man follows Scott Lang (played by Paul Rudd), a burglar just released from prison who is given an opportunity to become a superhero from Hank Pym (played by Michael Douglas). Lang’s goal is to stop an evil, generic business man, Darren Cross (played by Corey Stoll), from using his YellowJacket Suit (very similar to the Ant Man suit) for evil. To do this, Scott must become the Ant Man by wearing a suit that allows him to shrink and grow at will, but still keep all of his strength. As long as you can get past the plot hole of Ant Man having full force in a punch, but somehow riding on an ant and running up someone’s shoulder without killing the ant and knocking over the person, you’ll have a great time. Ant Man also came out at the perfect time, as everyone who saw Avengers: Age of Ultron knows, the film was a bit overstuffed and had too much going on in each shot. Ant Man does the exact opposite with a smaller scale story and much, much less going on in each shot, that helps Ant Man become the refreshing blockbuster that it is. Another great thing in Ant Man is that the stakes are higher than in most Marvel films, what I mean by that is in most Marvel movies we know that Marvel can’t kill Captain America, Iron Man, or Thor because Marvel financially relies on those characters, along with the rest of the Avengers. As shown by box office numbers, Ant Man is not a character that the MCU needs to go on financially, so it opened opportunities for real danger with the character. It is also worth mentioning that Ant Man is one of the most funny movies in the MCU, it doesn’t try as hard as Age of Ultron and the comedic timing is excellent. The only major issue with Ant Man is the villain. Marvel once again made a Marvel film with a 2-dimensional, generic business man who can do the same stuff as the hero kind of villain. Darren Cross as a character is a disappointment much like many other Marvel villains, of course, Loki and Ultron are exceptions. On the contrary to the villain, Marvel also had the great idea of letting Ant Man be more story driven than action driven, this worked very well for the character and will hopefully be done in more superhero movies. Overall, Ant Man is a spectacularly fun family blockbuster that fans of the Marvel Universe shouldn’t think twice about seeing. Ant Man was released on July 17, 2015 and is playing in all major movie theaters.

Pros:

  • Funny
  • Rudd is a great Ant Man
  • Story over action approach
  • Ties into the MCU very well
  • Supporting cast is excellent as well
  • Actual danger and smaller scale

Cons:

  • Villain is generic
  • Major plot hole may distract some viewers

Inside Out Review

insideout_w300SCORE: 10 (MASTERPIECE)

RATED: PG (mild thematic elements and some action)

DIDN’T SEE IT IN 3D, I IMAGINE THAT IT’S GOOD THOUGH

NOT IN RPX

Inside Out is one of the greatest movies Pixar has released to date. The film hits all of the right notes, it’s touching, smart, funny, original, sad when it wants to be, beautifully animated, and it has a star studded voice cast. The movie follows the emotions of an eleven year old girl named Riley. All of the emotions, Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger are very unique characters who are all very funny. In the film, Joy and Sadness get sucked through a tube are and sent into long term memory, accidentally taking all of the memories that make Riley who she is with them, with only Fear, Anger and Disgust left to control Riley, things get out of hand while Joy and Sadness have to get back to the control room. Everybody in the voice cast was clearly very carefully chosen, with Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation) voicing Joy, Phyllis Smith (The Office U.S.) as Sadness, Bill Hader (Saturday Night Live) as Fear, Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project) as Disgust and Lewis Black (The Daily Show with John Stewart) as Anger. Everyone does an excellent job as their characters. Inside Out is also much more funny than most recent animated movies, with humor that is aimed at older audiences rather than succumbing to non stop slapstick. Since I had not seen a Disney movie since Frozen (yes, I know that Inside Out is Pixar, not Disney Animation), I was skeptical because I really disliked Frozen, but Inside Out blew my expectations out of the water. Inside Out also features the most beautiful visuals that I have ever seen in any computer generated animated film. The only issue is the opening short. Every Pixar movie has an opening short and while Inside Out’s is pretty, it doesn’t have anything else going for it. Overall, Inside Out is a movie that everyone should see, it’s the best animated movie since The Wind Rises and the best Pixar entry since Up.

PROS:

BEAUTIFULLY ANIMATED

GREAT VOICE ACTING

GREAT CHARACTERS

ORIGINAL

SMART HUMOR

SAD WHEN IT WANTS TO BE

 

CONS:

BAD OPENING SHORT

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl Review

meandearl_w300SCORE: 9.8 (EXCELLENT)

RATED: PG-13 (sexual content, drug material, language and some thematic elements)

NOT IN 3D

NOT IN RPX

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a quirky, smart, and hilarious coming of age film that is sure to be one of this year’s indie hits. The film takes many films about growing up and follows the template, but with the help of out of the box directing, great performances, and relatable characters, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a film about finding yourself that can be compared to greats such as Almost Famous, The Way Way Back, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and even Boyhood. The film follows a highschool senior named Greg, Greg has managed to get through highschool without making any real friendships or quarrels, he has been able to work his way into every click imaginable. Greg has one friend, who he considers to be his co-worker, named Earl. Earl and Greg are coworkers because they make bad movies together. One day, Greg’s mom finds out that a girl in his class named Rachel, who Gregg has gone to school with all of his life, has been diagnosed with leukemia and Greg is then forced to hang out with her. The film’s acting is easily one of it’s best qualities. Thomas Mann, who plays Greg gives an outstanding performance, he has both great dramatic and comedic timing with his lines as does everyone else in this film. RJ Cyler also gives an outstanding breakout performance as Earl. Another great quality is the amazing chemistry that the cast has, the three title characters all felt like best friends to the audience without a single roll of the eyes. Nick Offerman is also worth mentioning for his hilarious performance as Greg’s dad. The film is also much more funny than most dramedies, where most focus more on drama, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl perfectly mixes the two elements to create a film that is both funny and heartbreaking, occasionally at the same time. Overall, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a must-see film, with great pacing, direction, writing, and acting, it’s a near perfect film.

PROS:

HILARIOUS

GREAT PERFORMANCES

WELL PACED

WELL DIRECTED

QUIRKY, BUT NOT TOO QUIRKY

 

Love and Mercy Review

Love_&_Mercy_w300SCORE: 7.8 (VERY GOOD)

RATED: PG-13 (thematic elements, drug content and language)

NOT IN 3D

NOT IN RPX

Love and Mercy (directed by Bill Pohlad) is the mostly interesting biopic about the mental and musical experiences of Brian Wilson, singer and songwriter for the Beach Boys. The film has two stories, one in the 60s about Brian wanting to write something different which leads to the making of Pet Sounds. The parts in the 1960s are the film’s best moments, they’re entertaining, beautifully shot, and have something which most music films get wrong, correct recording studio setups. These scenes also have Brian go through changes in his mental condition. In the other storyline, which takes place in the 1990s Brian falls in love with Melinda Ledbetter (played by Elizabeth Banks), who is his current wife, but Brian is different, his mental health has changed significantly due to an incorrect prescription for his mental illness. Dr. Landy (played by Paul Giamatti) always follows Brian, he completely controls Brian to the point where Brian is afraid of Dr. Landy. Landy’s interest in Brian is also entirely financial, he only sees Brian as a way to make more money. Brian and Melinda’s love story is challenged by both Brian’s illness and by Dr. Landy. The 1990s storyline wasn’t half as interesting as the 1960s storyline, it lacked the music and the beautiful camera shots that made the 1960s portions so great. Due to the 1990s portion not being very entertaining, the film has some serious pacing issues, the audience would be excited and loving the music scenes, but when the film suddenly switches to the 90s, the magic is gone. While parts of the 1990s material is fine, especially towards the end of the story, none of it deserves to be in the same movie as the 1960s scenes. Since the film has two storylines taking place 30 years apart, two different actors play Brian Wilson, in the 1960s there’s Paul Dano and in the 90s there’s John Cusack. Paul Dano gives an Oscar-worthy performance, he convinces the audience that he IS Brian Wilson. His facial expressions show the audience when his mood changes, his line delivery is brilliantly timed, and in one specific scene at a dinner party, his performance is chilling. John Cusack’s performance is fine, but his performance doesn’t compare to Dano’s. Cusack, however, is playing a different Brian Wilson, a broken Brian Wilson. In the beginning, Cusack’s performance feels wrong, but it grows on the viewer. Cusack is fine, but not Oscar-worthy like Dano. Overall, Love and Mercy is an interesting, if not poorly paced, biopic about Brian Wilson, it’s a must for fans and just music enthusiasts in general.

Pros:

  • Dano’s Performance
  • Beautifully shot
  • Music career is interesting
  • View inside of Wilson’s head

Cons:

  • Poorly paced
  • 1990s story doesn’t compare to the 1960s
  • Elizabeth Banks is a strange choice
  • The beautiful camerawork is missing the 1990s scenes

Masterpiece Classic: The Diary of Anne Frank Review

annefrank_w300GRADE: B

UNRATED

MINISERIES

[Brief editors note, this review of a miniseries from 2009 was put on the website because I watched this film in my 8th grade class and was asked to review it. While jacksreviews has been inactive for a long time, it will be coming back very soon.]

Masterpiece Classic: The Diary of Anne Frank is a good, but not great, film about Anne Frank. The film has many moments where it feels like it’s hitting the right notes, and that’s for most of the runtime, but at times, the film is haunted by poor dialogue, mediocre acting, and awkward cinematography. All of those issues are understandable especially since it was a five-part miniseries.

Ellie Kendrick, the actress chosen to play Anne Frank, did a great job as Anne Frank in my opinion. She came off as the talkative yet deep girl from history which was a pleasant surprise since child actors are always risks. The real issue, however, is a poor performance from Geoff Breton, who plays Peter. It may have been the poorly written dialogue in the love story between Anne and Peter or just Breton’s botched delivery of his lines, but Peter comes off as almost creepy in some scenes.
The film (or miniseries) also suffers from underdeveloped side characters and out of place British accents. The accents are understandable since the film is Masterpiece Classic (about as British as it gets), but German accents may have made some of the performances feel more authentic. Underdeveloped side characters plague the film though. While the book (or what we know of the true story) doesn’t necessarily have the same development for Anne as it does for the side characters (most likely due to being written by Anne Frank), the film can’t help but feel empty in the end when the Van Daans didn’t change at all and Mr. Dussel changed a very small amount.
The film does an excellent job, however, of showing what must be going through Anne’s head in the beginning and her dedication to writing. While Anne’s relationship with her mother makes Anne just seem like a bad person to her mother in the film as opposed to in the book, other moments inside of Anne’s head make up for this. The director shows people watching how little Anne knows about what is going on in the beginning with swift movements and thoughts of non war related things during shocking events. Another added bonus in the film is the unexpected appearance made by Oscar nominated actress Felicity Jones as Anne’s older sister Margot.
Overall, Masterpiece Classic: The Diary of Anne Frank is worth your time as long as you can get past slower patches, some poor dialogue and performances and out of place British accents. Beyond that, it is a well directed film that captures the feeling of being trapped in a bunker well.

American Sniper Review

AmericanSniper_w300GRADE: A

RATED: R ( strong and disturbing war violence, and language throughout including some sexual references)

NOT IN 3D

RPX IS DECENT

American Sniper(directed by Clint Eastwood) is an outstanding war film about Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in American history, he had over 160 confirmed kills. The film follows his career in war for the majority of the film, but at times transitions to the story about his life at home. The war scenes are intense and very well done, but the scenes at home feel very much like side content as opposed to another main storyline. At home, the film focuses on Chris when he’s haunted by war and also when he met his wife. Bradley Cooper perfectly portrays Chris Kyle, showing outstanding emotion in the eyes, face, and voice. The other characters are very minor, the film truly is about Chris Kyle, but all are well acted. The film had some minor issues that I found to be annoying. The babies in the film were baby dolls. For some reason, that got on my nerves, I could clearly see that the babies were dolls and Eastwood apparently didn’t even try to hide the fact that the babies were dolls. The other issue is in one scene with a sandstorm, the frame rate boosts, this wouldn’t be an issue if it didn’t make the rest of the film for the next few minutes feel slow. Just so people know, the film is gritty. Its a very serious and violent film with some shocking scenes, including the deaths of several children. American Sniper is a great biopic thats not for the faint of heart. American Sniper went into full release on January 17, and is nominated for 6 Oscars, including best picture and best lead actor.

BiRDMAN or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) Review

birdman_w300GRADE: A

RATED: R (language throughout, some sexual content and brief violence)

NOT IN 3D

NOT IN RPX

BiRDMAN is smart, outstandingly acted, well directed, and at times funny. The film is edited in a way so that it looks like it was shot in one continuous take. Rather than limiting the film, it makes it something different than what everyone’s become accustomed to. It gives the film a more real and interesting look. The cinematography is great, since the film is seemingly continuous, the camera follows whomever is the subject everywhere they go. The camera does several close ups of faces, showing every kind of emotion that is in the character’s face. This is also why the acting is so great, for everyone in the cast, Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, and Naomi Watts. Every member of the cast was outstanding, showing equal amounts of emotion through their voices, faces and body language. Michael Keaton plays Riggan Thompson, a once-was blockbuster star, who ever since he denied being in a sequel, has been failing. He’s broke, has family troubles and he’s depressed, now he’s adapting, directing, and starring in his own play on Broadway in attempt to come back while still being haunted by his movie star self. The film is heavy and it plays with your brain much more than you’d expect. At times, the film was you wondering if something’s real or if its Riggan’s imagination. Zach Galifianakis and Naomi Watts both gave strong performances, but were minor characters. Michael Keaton easily gave his best performance yet, and was very charismatic, Emma Stone was outstanding as Thompson’s daughter who just came back from rehab. Edward Norton was amazing as a method stage actor, who was also a total jerk. One of the things that the film does best is having everything in such a small space and always being so close up without the film feeling too claustrophobic. The score is also great, a jazzy drum beat that comes up every once in a while. Birdman is an outstanding film that plays with your mind and has amazing performances. The film is also gloriously guided by director Alejandro G. Iñarritu and is a must watch for fans of good movies. BiRDMAN was released on October 17th, but I never saw it until yesterday. It is nominated for 9 Oscars, tied for most nominations with Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel”.

Selma Review

realrealselma_w300GRADE: B+

RATED: PG-13(disturbing thematic material including violence, a suggestive moment, and brief strong language)

NOT IN RPX

NOT IN 3D

Selma is a great movie with an outstanding starring performance, but has several historical inaccuracies. The film is well directed by Ava DuVernay and the cinematography is spot-on. David Oyelowo’s performance as MLK Jr is one of the greatest performances of the year. Oyelowo was able to make MLK Jr’s words (well, close to them, DuVernay had to slightly change them because another studio had the rights to MLK’s speeches) sound like they were his own. For those who have watched MLK speak, which you can find online, Oyelowo sounds just like him, it truly is an outstanding performance. DuVernay’s direction is slick, perfectly capturing both the time and the feel of the film. The cinematography works well in every scene, be it a wide shot or a close up of a face. The reason why DuVernay wasn’t nominated for best director is speculated by many, the popular guess is because of the amount of historical inaccuracies. The most major being the film’s portrayal of Lyndon B. Johnson, the film antagonized him, where in reality, he was the most pro civil rights president to date. The film made him reluctant to assist MLK. This was seemingly done to add another obstacle for MLK, which was an odd choice to make. There were also some inaccuracies that were there for faster dramatic effect and I was completely unaware of until reading about them. However, once again the film was very well done. After the film’s opening scene, I was hooked. The film has several sad and powerful moments and rarely abandons its perfect pacing. The film was very “Hollywood” in parts, but during the scene when the African Americans march on the bridge, the film abandons that. The scene is raw and easily the hardest to watch scene from a movie all year. The film could have easily overdone the scene, but it stayed true and brutal. Selma should be the number one choice today (MLK Jr day) and it is for anyone who wants to learn about the time, wants to watch all of the Oscar nominated films, or just wants to watch a great movie. Selma went into limited release on Christmas and opened nationwide on January 9th.

Into The Woods Review

IntoTheWoods_w300GRADE: C+

RATED: PG (thematic elements, fantasy action and peril, and some suggestive material)

NOT IN RPX

NOT IN 3D

Into The Woods is an example of something that could have been great, but failed to be so somewhere along the way. The film had several elements that could have led to greatness, it had an outstanding cast with stars such as Meryl Streep as the Witch, Emily Blunt as the Baker’s Wife, James Corden as the Baker, Chris Pine as Cinderella’s Prince, Anna Kendrick as Cinderella, Johnny Depp as the Wolf and even more stars. The film also had a unique premise, which was mashing together several Brothers Grimm tales, but at times even the smart premise made the film feel sloppy and tangled. The all-star cast also delivered, especially Emily Blunt. Meryl Streep was excellent, Corden was great, Pine was hilarious, and the rest of the cast did an outstanding job as well. So, you’re probably wondering, “Why did it fall apart?” and I believe that the answer to that question is Rob Marshall’s direction, especially in the ending. Walking in I had read some reviews and I knew that nobody could appreciate the ending, some described it as uncharacteristically dark for Disney, but I didn’t find it to be so. However, I did find it to be the most rushed and poorly thought out ending to any film I’ve seen in a long time. The ending just happened in the blink of an eye, even though it was foreshadowed early on. The foreshadowing was an example of Marshall’s poor direction, because it made the ending too obvious, and although the end was predictable, it still had me wondering “What were the writer and director thinking?” The film also felt incredibly long, I recall checking my watch and sighing because the film was only half way over, that’s a bad sign. The film also took ridiculous parts from the Brothers Grimm tales and used them for what I hope was poorly done satire on the stories, it certainly didn’t feel that way though. I understand that those odd parts were in the Broadway version, but Marshall could’ve taken some creative liberties, it wouldn’t be a big deal if he used his own ideas for the film. Now, most of you are probably wondering how the music was. The music was about as good as the film, at times it was catchy and fun, but at other times it felt out of place or just annoyingly bad. I also had trouble liking the characters, while well acted, they felt one sided and underdeveloped, the film even changed them completely to further the script and blamed their absurd behavior on The Woods. That would’ve worked had the film actually mentioned the fact that The Woods have some sort of supernatural power, it was only mentioned when crazy things were happening, but in phrases such as, “Its The Woods, that’s why we’re this way!” it truly is a bummer, since that could have been such a successful idea. One thing Into The Woods does right is humor, the film is funny when it tries to be, I even laughed out loud at some points. Particularly one musical number with Pine’s prince and the Other Prince (actually the character’s name) had me laughing. Overall, Into The Woods is an ok family musical blockbuster with outstanding performances, but poor direction and writing. It might have been better if Into The Woods had just stayed on Broadway, but the film did have its moments.
Into The Woods is playing in theaters nationwide and has been out since December 25.