Category Archives: Romance

“Rough Night” Movie Review

Man, talk about a movie that actually lives up to its title. If they were going for the literal interpretation of whatever movie titles they could come up with, congratulations this takes the cake. This raunchy female-centric dark comedy released on June 16th, 2017, happily drinking up about $24 million stateside thus far at the box office. The film is brought to us by the same writers and producers of Broad City, a hit on Comedy Central with similarly relevant (and funny) subject material. After nearly a decade without contact with one another, a group of five female college friends reunites for the leader’s bachelorette party in Miami. Following a night of drinks and partying, a male stripper comes into the house and begins his regular routine for the bride. But they accidentally kill the stripper and have to suffer the consequences of trying to cover it up and mending each other’s broken bonds throughout the course of one, really awful night. None of the advertisements for this movie really grabbed me that much. The trailers looked and sounded obnoxious, giving off the impression that it was trying way too hard to be a knockoff of Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids from 2011. But truth be told, this movie isn’t actually that bad; in fact, it’s pretty entertaining. The first and most important accomplishment for a movie to achieve before anything else is to make the audience laugh. And luckily, Rough Night packs a lot of those. Some moments I chuckled at the mere context of a scene, other times I was guffawing from line after line of utter absurdity. Is it great? No, not at all. The first twenty minutes of the film do feel obnoxious like the trailers, but that’s quickly washed away once the film unveils itself in full comedy regalia. Scarlett Johannson leads the mostly female cast and shows off a surprising amount of comedic talent. Since the beginning of the new decade, this actress has been recognized almost exclusively for her roles in action movies like Black Widow in The Avengers or the titular character in Lucy. But most forget she started in dramatic films like Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation, and now she’s transitioning into comedy. She has a great sense of timing and shares excellent chemistry with the rest of her friends. Jillian Bell plays the attentive maid of honor who so obsessively arranges this party to be with her friends again. You get the feeling that she hasn’t really been in touch, and exhibits symptoms of OCD. Zoe Kravitz and Ilana Glazer play off each other as two former lovers who have gone off in polar opposite directions of life. This subplot was undeniably funny, but some of the execution felt forced and unneeded. While seasoned comedians Kate McKinnon and Peter W. Downs are welcome additions, Ty Burrell and Demi Moore were just not funny. A sensual couple that’s all about open relationships, they felt unnecessary and uncomfortable to watch. But maybe that was the point. After all, isn’t the point of any comedy to push people’s buttons on what’s considered socially acceptable. After all, Rough Night is never afraid to dip into the low-brow territory, given the overall premise. When the women are out partying at different clubs in Miami, they avoid the advances of men by exclaiming to one another, “I need a tampon!” All of the women in my theater couldn’t breath whenever that was spoken. Also later, Downs is attempting to run to his soon-to-be bride in what he thinks is rekindled love and proves his sobriety to a police officer in an outrageous way. It was a cheap joke, but it got a good laugh or too out of me. Not nearly as awful as misogynistic, overly indulgent parodies like Meet the Spartans and Disaster Movie, the movie manages to stay aware of what it is and work with its limited scope. But like any comedy out there, there is a real sense of seriousness and truth underneath all the shots, penis jokes, and sex talk. All of these women at the party have moved on with their individual lives, but you get the feeling that they still want to be together. This night gives that opportunity to live again as they did in their college years, even when things go wrong. Make no mistake, the story unfolds over 1 hour and 41 minutes without an ounce of unpredictability. But still, I appreciated the message of sisterhood that was promoted, especially with all of the drama unfolding in recent times. Rough Night is a thematic and hilarious, if predictable romp on a fun reunion, laced with some of the raunchiest humor this side of any collaboration between James Franco and Seth Rogen. It very much is the same type of scenario as Bridesmaids, and if you didn’t like that movie I’d suggest letting this one pass you by. For those who enjoyed it, you’ll probably have a great time here.

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“The Mummy” Movie Review

Oh, the things I do for you guys. This horror action thriller from debuting director Alex Kurtzman released nationwide on June 9th, 2017, surprisingly earning back nearly $300 million at the box office. It also marks the beginning of a brand new cinematic universe franchise entitled “Dark Universe,” a highly publicized reboot of the Universal Monster series from the 1930’s and 1940’s. Tom Cruise stars as a looter named Nick Morton who accidentally stumbles upon the grave of a thousands-year-old mummy princess, played by Sofia Boutella. Once she awakens, it’s up to him and Annabelle Wallis to prevent all hell from breaking loose in the modern world, while a mysterious organization looms over everything. Now this movie has been raked over the coals by critics and audiences everywhere, saying that it is a betrayal of everything this franchise stood for. Confession time: I was never a fan of Stephen Sommers’ original The Mummy from the late 1990’s or its two sequels. I haven’t seen them in years. I also think that some of the early Universal Monster movies are a bit overrated. In short, I genuinely do not care about this series, so I was able to enter the theater with a completely open mind. And after 107 minutes of my time absorbed, I walked out blown away… at how bad this actually was. Let’s start out with the positives in this movie, as I typically like to do. Like most of his other movies, Tom Cruise totally brings it to his role as Nick Morton in physical demand. The fact that this man is willing to perform most of his own stunts and retain that iconic All-American smile gives an edge and sense of being fun to watch that most action stars miss. While yes, he does run a lot, his character arc is essentially the same one he’s been playing for the last several years. Meanwhile, Anabelle Wallis plays his love interest with some great feistiness and is able to keep her wits about her. Their love story follows all of the beats you’d expect rather predictably and lazily. Sofia Boutella is a greatly underrated actress and action heroine who deserves more recognition than she already has. Her mummy actually had a relatively intriguing backstory Despite the rest of the cast consisting of A-list talents such as Courtney B. Vance, Jake Johnson, Javier Botet, Marwan Kenzari, and Russel Crowe, they feel wasted and wanting of more to say and to do. And that’s apparently because Cruise reportedly had way too much creative control over the production of The Mummy. From rewriting the meager script (Which already had six people credited to writing) to teaching Kurtzman how to properly direct to downplaying the roles of actors, this might as well have been his own directorial debut, Stanley Kubrick style. No wonder Universal Studios gave a monster salary for this film. Now I’m left to wonder if the movie would have become better if he had let the creators do what they wanted. I haven’t even gotten to the technical parts of the picture, which are an extremely mixed bag. The sound design and surround audio are crisp and nice, especially during gunfights or tomb looting moments. But the visual effects are the most inconsistent aspect of the film as a whole. Some scenes, it looked fine; not nearly impressive, but fine enough. Other times, it looked a wholly unconvincing sequence of greenscreen voodoo magic infused with whatever few practical sets were built on a studio lot. The design for the mummy herself, Princess Ahmanet, was pretty cool and showed off some impressive make-up, but that’s about the extent of it. Action movie man Brian Tyler composes his fourth feature film score this year, and can be deemed as “passable.” While it does lean on the tense strings during some of the more horror-driven moments, for the most part, the tracks often feature rousing orchestral arrangements in the vein of high-flying adventures like Indiana Jones. Which I find funny, considering that Stephen Sommers’ The Mummy actually started out as an Indiana Jones rip-off, which itself was a parody of tomb raiding adventures like the original from the 1930’s starring Boris Karloff. Everything that goes around eventually finds a way to come back around. But above all else, The Mummy is simply frustrating in its attempts to set up the much-talked about “Dark Universe.” Alex Kurtzman is so convinced that he has to create this world in which we can have sequels and spin-offs in the future that he and the other five screenwriters end up rushing through many beats. Whereas Marvel Studios took their sweet time establishing the whole universe and set of characters to come, The Mummy wants to get it all out of the gate immediately, using Russel Crowe’s character of Dr. Henry Jekyll and his organization as a thread tying it all together. Hell, even the DC Cinematic Universe seemed more patient than this one does. To be fair, that whole segment involving Jekyll and his people was the most genuinely entertaining part of the entire 107-minute runtime, and as far as I’m concerned watching the origin of his character and organization would have been a much more interesting movie than the one we ultimately got. All the hype around this new cinematic universe of iconic movie monsters coming together and this is the best thing they could come up with? Unless you’re the curious completionist or fan of brainless action, The Mummy is a desperately rushed and wholly underwhelming barrage of boneheaded potential. Confusing in tone and disappointing overall, there is honestly a compelling movie SOMEWHERE underneath this foundation; it’s there. I’m just waiting for the first person who finds it.

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“Wonder Woman” Movie Review

Sometimes, movies can teach its audience a valuable lesson. The lesson I took away from this one? Never question a woman when she has an opinion in the war room. Ever. This historical superhero adventure released worldwide on June 2nd, 2017, grossing over $220 million in the opening weekend. It took years for the character to make her onscreen debut, with Joss Whedon making attempts at it in the late 1990’s. Under the reigns of Monster director Patty Jenkins, Warner Bros. finally gave her a solo film this year. The titular character from DC Comics, played by Gal Gadot, lives on her paradise island of Themiscyra with her fellow female Amazon warriors. When American pilot Steve Trevor lands on their doorstep, Princess Diana is swept up into the War to End All Wars. Now, she must find the God of War Ares, who she believes is causing the conflict, and save humanity from tearing itself apart. Going into Wonder Woman, there was a certain level of expectations I had set. In the past, I was probably way too forgiving to Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was a massive disappointment. But listening to the initial critical reactions, I was wondering if it would truly be the first great movie of the DC Extended Universe. Well, I’m very happy to report that that is the case. The biggest thing at the forefront of this film is the character interactions, particularly between Steve Trevor and Diana. And that is arguably the strongest aspect of the entire movie. Gal Gadot is practically flawless as the main hero, showing off all the charisma and charm of any cinematic male superhero you could think of. Her gradual discovery of mankind’s capability for violence and compassion gives her a genuine arc, rather than some god who is perfect at everything. Chris Pine is a magnificently funny counterpart to her in both essence and philosophy. While Diana believes strongly in the inherent goodness of man, Trevor is more world-weary and idealistic. Their back-and-forth banter is written sharply. In fact, the biggest thing distinguishing this film from its predecessors is just how funny it is. Previously, both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman were total gloom-fests and Suicide Squad has some trouble finding its identity with a lack of balance. But Wonder Woman emerges with zero shame in its protagonist, highlighting much of the absurdity in a comical light. Is it cheesy and cliched sometimes? Yes, it is. You’ll likely hear this in many other reviews, but this charm is reminiscent of Christopher Reeve’s Superman from 1978, the granddaddy of all modern superhero films, regardless of license. The period setting and “God-is-a-fish-out-of-water” premise are also familiar with 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor. To be clear, Wonder Woman is better and funnier than either of those two, but seeing that kind of influence is just so amusing. The funniest segment comes in the portion set in London when they come to visit higher-ups. Not only does Lucy Davis nail the role of Steve Trevor’s secretary, but there was a scene when Diana saved Trevor from thugs in an alleyway. Yet again, that reminded me of Richard Donner’s classic. The main villains were a mixed bag for me. Two of them were actually interesting and it was rather nice to watch their plans unfold. However, I felt that the reveal of Ares in the final act was ruined by a bit of miscasting and predictability. And like the previous installments of the DC Extended Universe, as well as arguably Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Wonder Woman‘s final battle is a CGI-heavy festival of explosions and fantasy elements. It wasn’t necessarily a mess, it was relatively easy to follow but felt drawn-out. Speaking of action scenes, when they do happen in the movie, they are absolutely riveting to behold. The greatest and by far most memorable sequence in the entire movie is when our heroes are trying to help their comrades survive a bit of trench warfare. Diana brings out her outfit, shield and God-Killer sword, and walks into No Man’s Land determined to bring down the Kaiser’s men. In some ways, this was the centerpiece of the film, elevated by Martin Walsh’s fast-paced editing and Rupert Gregson-Williams’ pulsating orchestral score. Mixing the titular character’s electric guitar-driven theme song from Batman v Superman with swelling strings and horns is an interesting play. Also worth noting, pop artists Sia and Labrinth wrote an original song for the soundtrack called “To Be Human,” which plays as the credits begin to role. Fans should hold out to listen to a rather inspirational song. Just don’t expect any post-credits scenes of any kind while you’re at it. Ultimately, this movie has a message. A very important and relevant message that all of mankind, let alone comic book fans, need to be reminded of. As most of the film is told through the eyes of Diana/Wonder Woman, we see the human world as she does: grimy, desperate, washed away, and on the brink of self-destruction. But she also sees that as deeply flawed as it may be, and as evil the atrocities it can commit throughout history, humanity is still worth saving from the darkness. Incredibly challenging and uplifting, this message is the kind of optimism and hope our world desperately needs right now. My faith in humanity has been what it’s always been, but movies like this remind me of something that seems impossible to conceive of, yet easy to grasp. That, or I have no idea what the hell I’m actually talking about. With thrilling action, tons of heart, great acting, and clever homages to the original films of the genre, Wonder Woman is a love letter to female empowerment and a celebration of man’s worth for salvation. Go see this movie and support it actively. And then buy it on Blu-Ray. That’s what I’m doing next.

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“Blue Velvet” Movie Review

Hmm… I’m not quite sure if I should love this movie for challenging me to think or hate it for leaving me unsatisfied. I guess I should write a review and see what comes up from it. This off-kilter erotic mystery thriller came out in September of 1986, where it barely turned a profit on its $6 million budget and garnered initially mixed reviews. Eventually, writer-director David Lynch’s 4th theatrical feature film gained great critical acclaim and analysis in the years that followed- though it was still famously hated by critic Roger Ebert even after revisiting it. The plot is a mystery where Kyle MacLachlan plays a perve who, through a series of circumstances, gets wrapped up in a plot of sadomasochism and murder involving a night club singer and a really demented gangster. I call him a perve because what other kinds of person would hide in a woman’s closet and then return the following nights to have sex with them? This actually happened in the movie. Twice. Look, I get it. David Lynch is an absurdly creative talent with an eye for the visually and narratively strange. In fact, he often embraces that weirdness with open arms to wrap around the audience. But sometimes, he just gets so caught up in his amount of weirdness that it becomes rather hard to enjoy his movies. Take Blue Velvet, for example. To be clear, I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad film. In fact, there are moments of Blue Velvet that are genuinely entertaining and watchable, particularly when it gets into the noir elements. Lynch has always been a master at that level of storytelling with the cult classic show Twin Peaks and his later film Mulholland Drive, both of which I adored. And the performances are alright from the main actors, but let’s be real. The only truly great actor here is the late, great Dennis Hopper as Frank Booth. This is basically the movie that relaunched his dormant career with his surprising turn as an unpredictable if outrageous villain. It’s always fascinating when a movie has a hidden meaning or message underneath the surface, as it can often time warrant watching the film a few more times to soak in everything that needs to be. David Lynch himself has professed that his art is meant to be interpreted freely by the viewers. And the ideas that Blue Velvet brings to life are pretty interesting. But more like his first feature Eraserhead, this film became so obsessed with what it was trying to say that it virtually eliminates the need for a rewatch. My politics being my own private business, I tried to watch this movie without any feeling of demoralization or anger. But truth be told, this movie really got under my skin early on. The level of sadomasochism and sexual pleasure these characters take in is not very believable and borderline unrealistic. To be fair, Lynch has always gotten close to the surreal and blending fantasy with reality. But here, Blue Velvet seems so determined to make Isabella Rossellini as abused as possible and make her ask for even more from a totally innocent man. Considering the amount of press that feminism has gained recently, it’s arguable that this may be Lynch’s most dated movie out of his whole catalog. When sitting down to watch a film by David Lynch, there are usually a set of expectations I set for it: a completely self-absorbed, overly-indulgent showcase of thematic fingerpaintings featuring good actors playing unrealistic characters. Not everything in a movie has to be realistic. I mean, shit, some of my favorite movies are in the sci-fi and fantasy genres. And with Blue Velvet, it’s not quite as much of a fantasy as Mulholland Drive, but it was a bit better than I had expected it to be. If you like serious films with interesting messages, then definitely check it out. Others may be off-put by its excessive weirdness. But this is not conventional filmmaking in the slightest. I’ve already established that about David Lynch. He thrives off of the refusal of formula or convention. I like Blue Velvet and I don’t like it at the same time. It’s as simple as that. It’s a fascinating if a somewhat pretentious portrait of suburban lust that’s just not worth watching too many times. Maybe twice, but that’s about it.

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“The Prestige” Movie Review

Thought it would make sense to review some of Christopher Nolan’s best films in preparation for Dunkirk this July. I’ve already done Interstellar, though, I’m tempted to do an update. You can expect the Dark Knight Trilogy to show up soon, as well as Inception, but let’s begin with one of his more overlooked projects. This magic-based mystery thriller was able to triple its $40 million budget after its premiere October of 2006. Released just after Batman Begins, it also marks a rare time when Nolan adapted a pre-existing material, as it was based on the novel by Christopher Priest. Set in 1890’s London, the incredibly complex story follows two magicians, Robert Angier and Alfred Borden, who compete with each other to create the greatest stage illusion imaginable. Their game of one-upmanship turns into a series of tragedies. Of course, this being a film by Christopher Nolan, the PG-13 rated plot is much more involved and layered than that, and some really mind-bending stuff happens. Hugh Jackman is the real star of this film as Robert Angier, with all the charisma and showmanship that most real-life magicians lack. The things that happen to him are very sad and damaging. And as he goes down the path of competition, he begins to lose sight of what got him on that path to start. Continuing their relationship with the director, Michael Caine and Christian Bale are fabulous in their roles. Unlike many of his other films, Bale is actually allowed to retain his British accent, which added more heft to his emotional punch. Caine, meanwhile, plays a disconnected mentor who essentially works as a mediator between the two magicians. His wisdom is reminiscent of Alfred Pennyworth from the Dark Knight Trilogy, as he seems to be the one person who wants both of these men to settle their feud. The strong supporting cast includes Scarlett Johannson, Piper Perabo, Rebecca Hall, Ricky Jay, a rare live-action stint from Andy Serkis, and the late musician David Bowie. Bowie is particularly enigmatic as a man with many secrets on how to make a show even more dazzling than it already is. But he doesn’t use magic, he uses science. To go any further into any of these actors’ characters would spoil the plot. One of the things Nolan is known for is how all of his films are not what they initially appear to be. For example, his first directorial outing Following looked like a cheap student film, (And it kind of was) but turned out to be a focused and engaging mystery thriller. With The Prestige, he crafts a compelling narrative out of a subject that shouldn’t be that interesting; stage magicians. Through his trademark storytelling techniques, the story doesn’t initially progress in chronological order and jumps around in time. This makes the film even more intriguing and keeps the audience guessing from start to finish. Another trademark of Nolan’s is how practical and technically brilliant his films are. The production and costume designs are all top-notch and help it feel like a gritty and lived-in 1890’s London. When Borden or Angiers are on-stage, it feels as if we are actually watching a magic show unfold before our eyes. And the visuals are nice as well. In one scene, Angiers is standing in the middle of a snowy ridge when all of a sudden, these fluorescent lights come out. It added more beauty, atmosphere, and mystique to the 130 minute-long picture, topped by Wally Pfister’s surreal camera work. As pretty much the last film before Nolan’s long-term collaboration with Hans Zimmer, the musical score in The Prestige is provided by David Julyan. It is often consisting of eery synthesizers building up in a crescendo, punctuated by a shocking set of strings in revealing moments. And there are many. Holy mother of God, there are revealing moments. Like a traditional magic show, the film is broken up into three intertwined acts. The first two are impressive feats of visual flair and emotionally engaging performances. But in the final act, a jaw-dropping plot twist is thrown in to pull the rug from underneath the audience in a way that is both shocking and brilliantly believable. Were you watching closely? I was, and it worked. Without giving away anything, the twist also brought to light the philosophical themes hidden just beneath the crust. Because these two characters are neck-and-neck, they often give in to their inner ambitions and obsession. That obession to become the greatest at their profession leads to many bad outcomes and ultimately makes them less humane. To put it in the words of David Bowie’s character, “You’re familiar with the phrase ‘man’s reach exceeds his grasp?’ It’s a lie; man’s grasp exceeds his nerve.” If you love the type of movies that make you think about the story and maybe even tempt you to watch it again to make sure you didn’t miss anything, you need not look any further than The Prestige. It blends seamless production and technical merits and fantastic performance with breathtaking precision. This is a very underrated piece of humanistic filmmaking that deserves all the recognition as Christopher Nolan’s other endeavors have endured.

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“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” Movie Review

Now I know for a fact that I need to own a walkman. In fact, if anyone would be so kind as to send me one for Christmas this year, I will be the happiest man on Earth. This science-fiction comic book superhero movie was released worldwide on May 5th, 2017, officially becoming the 15th installment of the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe. Following in the footsteps of its predecessors getting released on the first week of May, the film opened to about $440 million worldwide at the box office. Taking just a few months after the vents of the first installment, the titular team have become a renowned intergalactic mercenary group. The leader of the group, Peter “Starlord” Quill, unearths some new discoveries about his ancestry and sets out to find his father, Ego. All the while, the company of mercenaries called the Ravagers, led by Yondu, are hot on their trail for glory and gold. Now way back in 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy was one of the very first movies I ever did a review of on my blog. It was hilarious, heartfelt, and perhaps the most ambitious production ever taken up by Marvel Studios, as these were previously characters whom very few people were familiar with. And now we get to see a sequel written and directed by James Gunn, and how is it? To be honest, it was a bit of a letdown in some regards, but still really enjoyable and entertaining. Right off the bat, Chris Pratt leads the big ensemble cast with his traditional likability and overall sense of humor. Previously a “nobody” just a few years ago, this man has been taking over Hollywood one blockbuster after another. Zoe Saldana returns as his green-skinned love interest Gamora, who is kicks a lot of ass and looks sexy while doing it. Former wrestler Dave Bautista may not be given much to say or do for a majority of the 136 minute-long film, but I’ll be damned if he didn’t make me laugh a lot. His great sense of timing and wicked physical comedy makes him probably the funniest member of the titular group of misfits. Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel reprise their voice roles as the genetically modified Rocket Raccoon and Baby Groot, both of whom were just adorable in their own twisted ways. Big names like Kurt Russell, Karen Gillan, Sylvester Stallone, Chris Sullivan, Elizabeth Debicki, and Michael Rooker round out the impressive supporting cast. Rooker and Russell were both particularly noteworthy in their roles as Yondu and Ego, respectively, bringing a sort of human element to this otherwise otherworldly tale. Most everyone else seems like they were there just to say that they were part of the Marvel franchise. One of the distinguishing factors of the first movie was the astonishing, if somewhat overused visual effects. These effects continue to dazzle in the second installment, with a beautiful use of bright and vibrant colors for the ships, planets, and even the characters. The makeup design of several aliens is pretty impressive, especially of the gold-skinned Sovereign race, an arrogant people whose stoicism makes for some unexpected laughs. Though by the second half, it becomes pretty easy to tell when there’s a green screen in the background because some locations just look too fantastical to build with real sets or shoot on-location. And yeah, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is really funny just like the last one, albeit not quite as much. Often, the humor comes out from the awkward dialogue among the characters, such as Starlord referring to his semi-romantic relationship with Gamora as “this unspoken thing.” One notable standout is when the Sovereign race tries to attack the Guardians after screwing them over on a deal, and send spaceships out to fight. But all of these ships are remotely controlled from their home planet and emulate something of a video game. One has to wonder how long it will be before any real-life military will start using this system to virtually train its soldiers for combat. Tyler Bates returns from the first film to provide the original score. But like many other Marvel productions, the main theme and other tracks are forgettable and sub-par, only standing out in moments where it all intensifies. However, Gunn attempts to make up for this with yet another soundtrack of old tunes. Mostly consisting of pop songs from the late 70’s and the early 80’s, my personal favorite was “Father and Son” by the controversial Cat Stevens. It evoked the right amount of emotion for the overall theme of the lost bond between father and son found in the relationship Starlord and his mysterious patriarch. Aside from this, and a brilliant addition of “Lake Shore Drive” by Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah in the opening sequence- which was all shown on a single, uninterrupted shot -this soundtrack, I feel, is not worth buying as a whole. Most of them did fit in with the story, but others felt somewhat gratuitous. In the end, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a solid, if a little disappointing, space romp that just doesn’t quite hit the heights of the original. Excellent visuals and a bevy of characters that we love keep this superhero story aloft in memory and enjoyment.

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“Colossal” Movie Review

And I thought that kaiju monster movies were done and finished these days. Guess I was wrong on that count. This sci-fi romantic comedy-drama was had a lengthy festival run from Toronto to Sundance before garnering a limited release on April 7th, 2017. The $15 million production is the first official theatrical release for the newly formed distributor, NEON. And they remind me of Pixar because there’s a hilarious short film that plays just before this one. Anne Hathaway stars as Gloria, a struggling alcoholic who is dumped and kicked out of her New York apartment by her ex-boyfriend. After moving back to her small hometown in the Midwest, she discovers that she has a strange psychological connection with a massive kaiju that is attacking Seoul. With that premise alone, you already know that this is going to be a very tongue-in-cheek tribute to old monster movies, specifically the early years of the Godzilla franchise. And writer-director Nacho Vigalondo certainly throws his audience a figurative bone every now and again. But for the most part, he focuses on the characters and the story. During the opening 20 minutes of this film, I wasn’t quite sure what to think of it yet because some of the writing felt a bit rushed and uneven. But as soon as the kaiju started attacking Seoul, I was treated to some pretty entertaining stuff. Anne Hathaway started her career in romantic comedies before she transitioned to big-budget Hollywood films and serious dramas. This felt like a happy medium for her, going back to her roots while still retaining her current (and totally attractive) image. Her awkward nature matches her character’s down-to-Earth personality and absolutely weird condition and set of circumstances. However, for a while, her utter beauty made it hard to buy her as an alcoholic. Supporting players include Tim Blake Nelson, Austin Stowell, and Downton Abbey‘s own Dan Stevens all of whom do a respectable job. However, Saturday Night Live alum Jason Sudeikis is a total scene-stealer in this film. He begins as his regular, funny self, giving the impression of that guy you would love to hang out with at the park. But soon, he turns a complete 180 and becomes a menacing creep who is unfulfilled by his standing in his small, inconsequential life. But his transition in character felt extremely jarring and conflicting with the tone that was set up at the beginning. The tone of the story is easily the biggest problem with Colossal, as it felt very inconsistent. In fact, I would blame the marketing because it’s not as funny as the trailer suggests. There are some scenes that will make the audience laugh out loud, for sure. But the opening 20 minutes are a little misleading as to what kind of movie you’re really in for. And the psychic monster aspects were far more interesting and memorable than the romantic-comedy it sets itself out as at the beginning of the film. Think of it as something like several pieces of a pie that are pretty good, but not one whole pie that is just great. On the topic of the monster, the visual effects are rather impressive for a relatively low-budget film like this one. The fact that he doesn’t appear onscreen too often is probably the reason why, as focusing on him too much would have likely not turned out well at all. Indeed, the majority of the 110-minute film is spent in the bar of this small town, where the main characters converse either on the events unfolding on television or just whatever comes to their mind. In that, Vigalondo has written the movie pretty and rather realistically, at least given the circumstances given. Underneath all of the laugh-induced drinking and far away city destruction, however, Colossal is a story about escaping abusive relationships. Much like last year’s 10 Cloverfield Lane, the main character in this movie, Gloria, finds herself between a rock and a hard place. Her previous boyfriend didn’t work out at all and the new one she finds is less than cooperative, especially after he discovers her strange connection to the kaiju in Seoul. The monster must be a metaphor for her self-empowerment getting a personification. As she learns to control the monster more, she starts growing more confident in herself. The meaning of it all shouldn’t be overlooked, especially with recent developments in the news. There is an actual musical score in this film, provided by the prolific, if underrated Bear McCreary. He foregoes the moody and grim leitmotifs from his work on shows like The Walking Dead and the 2004 reboot of Battlestar Galactica and instead goes for something a little more grand in scale. Full-fled orchestras sound off during the final act when all the pieces start coming together. And boy, what a finale that was. Colossal may be a little too ambitious for its own good and underwhelming at times, but it’s the original concept and Anne Hathaway’s lead performance that elevate it above mediocrity. While it’s certainly not a movie for everyone, it promises great things for the future of Nacho Vigalondo. And NEON.

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