Snatched (Full Review)

Amy Schumer can be an acquired taste. Her stand ups are hit or miss, but her last film, Trainwreck was a charming and enjoyable romantic comedy thanks to solid help from Bill Hader and, oddly enough, Lebron James. In her new film, Schumer enlists the help of long time American sweetheart Goldie Hawn.

Snatched2017posterSnatched stars Schumer as Emily, a lazy middle aged woman who is justifiably dumped by her boyfriend and fired from her retail job in the same day. Instead of canceling a romantic getaway out of the country, she decides to take her sweet, but annoying mother (Hawn).  On their trip, Emily’s carelessness naivety leads to the two being kidnapped by a Columbian Drug lord (Oscar Jaenada).

There are certainly some good laughs to be had in spurts and it’s always good when those moments come in scenes that aren’t in the trailers, but Snatched ultimately suffers from almost trying too hard. It works best when its able to play off of Goldie Hawn’s ditsy charm and Schumer’s raunchiness. Too often, though, the film gets overtly wacky. From Ike Barinholtz’s over the top portrayal of Emily’s nerdy mama’s boy brother to a nonsensical and ill fitting scene where an alien-like warm has to be extracted from Schumer’s mouth, the movie doesn’t seem to know what kind of comedy it wants to be.

Christopher Meloni, Wanda Sykes, and Joan Cusack pop in with some fairly comedic supporting roles, but none of them are on screen long enough to fully compensate for the movie’s overall cartoonish tone. If you aren’t a fan of Amy Schumer, this film won’t come close to winning you over, but if you are, Snatched won’t be a bad viewing even if you do forget about it existing in a year or two.

FINAL GRADE: C

Snatched (Full Review)

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (Full Review)

There is a scene in this film where King Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) is rapidly retelling a soldier the story of his scuffle with a Viking. The soldier becomes confused and repeatedly asks for clarification. It is hardly relevant to overall plot, but ends up being a great scene in that it is a microcosm for the entire film: A scatter brained, poorly paced retelling of a story we don’t really need to know.

King_Arthur_LotS_posterThis reimagining of King Arthur, directed by Guy Ritchie, involves a war with wizards (referred to as Mages) that eventually leads to Arthur’s uncle Vortigem (Jude Law) uniting with dark magic to overthrow the King (Eric Bana) and take over the kingdom of Camelot. Before he dies, the true king preserves his magical sword, Excalibur, and helps his young son escape. Decades later, tests to find the true heir to the thrown leads to Arthur reclaiming the sword. Along with a young mage (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) and his father’s old allies (Djimon Hounsou and Aidan Gillen), a reluctant Arthur is forced to embrace his destiny and overthrow his uncle.

Conceptually, there are several elements within King Arthur: Legend of the Sword that can make you understand the attempt. The inclusion of magic and mythology is intriguing and both Hunnam and Jude Law do their best to elevate their characters from cliché caricatures with emotion and charisma. But the overall product just ends up being a convoluted and often boring mess.

Much of the blame has to go to Guy Ritchie (The Man from UNCLE, Sherlock Holmes) whose overindulgent cinematography is stuffed with hokey CGI fight sequences, dizzying camera angles, excessive slow motion effects, and awkward pacing. The rest of the blame goes to the script itself, which fails to find a central arc and instead crams far too much information and lure into a film that is moving too fast for its audience to grasp it all. Important elements are given montages that turn what might’ve been intriguing  character building moments into rapid footnotes that could’ve been left on the cutting room floor if they weren’t going to be expanded upon.

There are also far too many characters to learn and become attached to, many of which serve the same purpose. While some, such as Aiden Gillen’s Goosefat Bill and Berges-Frisbey’s mage have wit and charm, the vast majority are immediately forgettable and just take up valuable screen time that could’ve been spent elsewhere. Thus, despite having an interesting foundation, an attempt to be a unique take on a classic story ends up making King Arthur: Legend of the Sword one of the most disorienting films in recent memory.

FINAL GRADE: D

MOORE REVIEWS Grading Scale:

A = Must See/Top 10 Nominee

B = Good film. Flawed, but still very entertaining

C = Not Bad, but highly flawed/Probably better off waiting for Redbox

D = Terrible Movie with a few redeeming qualities

F = I wanted to walk out/Don’t waste time or money

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (Full Review)

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (Full Review)

No film in Disney/Marvel’s massive gallery was as much of a surprise success as 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy. The film about a ragtag group of space anti-heroes transcended its lesser known source material to become a fun summer blockbuster full of exhilarating action and humor. But it’s hard to follow up a breakout hit with something better or even just as good. Iron Man 2 and Avengers: Age of Ultron showed us, that while the Marvel Cinematic Universe always keeps things entertaining, sometimes their sequels can’t quite live up to the hype.

GotG_Vol2_posterGuardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 continues the adventures of a group of intergalactic heroes for hire. Returning are Drax (Dave Bautista), a slow witted mustle man who lacks subtlety; Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a rude and violent talking raccoon; Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), a naive tree monster reduced to baby form following the first film’s climax; Gamora (Zoe Saldana) skiled assassin and daughter to a space tyrant, and Peter “Star Lord” Quill, (Chris Pratt), an Earthling with a human mother and an alien father he’s never met. After the crew makes enemies out of a society of genetic purists (led by Elizabeth Debicki), the Guardians encounter Ego (Kurt Russell), an antient, powerful being claiming to be Quill’s father, and his socially awkward aprentice, named Mantis (Pom Klementieff). Michael Rooker also returns as Quill’s former mentor Yondu, and Karen Gillan reprises her role as Gamora’s sister/hated rival, Nebula.

As it turns out, Guardians Vol. 2 has many of the same problems as Iron Man 2 and Age of Ultron in that it seems more concerned with making the audience laugh and giving them shiny new CGI to gawk at than with forming a coherent narrative. As such, the plot to this film is all over the place for the majority of its seemingly lengthy runtime. There are far too many threads that are overly emphasized such as a subplot about Yondu’s connection to a former mentor (played by Sylvester Stallone) and his dismissal from the bounty hunting Ravagers. It isn’t until the admittedly exciting climax that things seem to actually come together, but the means hardly justifies the ends.

There’s still a great bit of humor throughout. Dave Bautista (who has greatly improved since his acting debut) is hilarious in every scene and most of the banter between the team is fun. But even here, things don’t feel as consistently organic as they did the first go round. Too much of the jokes are awkwardly raunchy (get ready for penis jokes… yes, penis jokes), and the cartoony slapstick is so abundant that it often undermines scenes that should probably be taken more seriously.

The film manages to add some weighty emotional moments to make the story feel grounded and a bit more necessary. A few scenes between Saldana’s Gamora and Gillan’s Nebula do a fantastic job of adding depth to both characters. In fact, most of the cast deserves credit for injecting likability into each of their characters. But with the story, much of the humor, and even the soundtrack all feeling like a step down, its hard to make a case that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is memorable. Not every follow up is going to be The Empire Strikes Back or The Dark Knight, but I can’t help but feel like characters this fun deserve an adventure that isn’t predominantly a throw away.

FINAL GRADE: C

A = Must See/Top 10 Nominee

B = Good film. Flawed, but still very entertaining

C = Not Bad, but highly flawed/Probably better off waiting for Redbox

D = Terrible Movie with a few redeeming qualities

F = I wanted to walk out/Don’t waste time or money

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (Full Review)

The Circle (Full Review)

Just how much social media is too much? Is social media and the rapid growth of technology making the world less private? Is privacy worth trading for security? These are just some of the philosophical questions that are bound to pop up in the coming years as our world evolves. The Circle, adapted from a 2013 novel written by Dave Eggers, is a story that raises many of those questions. If only it had answers for them.

The_Circle_(2017_film)The Circle takes place in the near future where people all over the world are connected through a Facebook meets Apple meets Google media conglomerate known as ‘The Circle’ ran by tech genius Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks) and legal figurehead Tom Stenton. When her friend Annie (Karen Gillan) gets her a customer service job at the Circle, Mae (Emma Watson) sees it as a golden opportunity to help her ill father (the late Bill Paxton) and improve her dull life. As her career within the company rises and her relationship with a close family friend (Ellar Coltrane) begins to deteriorate, she begins to question the morality of the Circle.

There is a strong theoretical core to The Circle as it does manage to raise all of the questions mentioned earlier, but overall this is a film that collapses on itself without truly understanding what it should be. After taking far too long to introduce actual conflict, the film teeters in its final act when it doesn’t quite know how to answer all of its many hypotheticals. Emma Watson’s character goes through tragedy as a result of the issues brought up, but the resolution matches neither the build up or the lesson that should’ve been learned.

We are asked by the narrative to think about what social media means to our societal privacy. We are asked to wonder how much information is too much, and yet… the film’s climax veers off into a hardly relevant commentary about corruption. As a result, The Circle ends up like an uneven equation. It raises questions then responds with an answer to one that was never asked.

The lack of resolution wouldn’t be as frustrating if there were other elements that made the film worth while. But the performances are mostly flat, save for an underutilized John Boyega as the one questioning cog within the Circle. Emma Watson gives her worst performance since childhood as she spends most of the movie poorly hiding her accent and trying to find the correct emotional footing through an uneven script. Several characters also have uneven arcs like Gillain’s Annie, who goes from peppy Circle subordinate to paranoid, jealous, pill addict without any real transition. And sure, thought provoking films don’t necessarily need to have all of the answers to the questions they raise, but The Circle comes off like a film that doesn’t even know what questions its asking.

FINAL GRADE: D

 

 

The Circle (Full Review)

Free Fire (Full Review)

There’s nothing like a movie that takes a simple concept and is able to turn it into something entertaining. Some films don’t need elaborate plots or huge set pieces to be exhilarating. With Free Fire, Director Ben Wheatley takes pages out of the Quentin Tarantino book of storytelling and delivers a hilariously kinetic film held up by a captivating cast.

imagesFree Fire takes place in the 1970’s and is almost entirely set in a Boston warehouse. Brie Larson plays Justine, a liaison helping a group of Irishman (Cilian Murphy, Michael Smiley, Sam Riley) illegally purchase assault rifles from a group of shady gun dealers (Shalto Copley, Armie Hammer, Babou Ceesay, Jack Raynor). When an altercation leads to shots being fired, the deal turns into an all out gun fight with everyone trying to make it out alive.

As I mentioned, Free Fire feels very much like a Tarantino film (think Reservoir Dogs or The Hateful Eight). Almost every line is filled with sly humor and relevancy. And every time the story seems as if it’s going to lull, a new twist sparks even more hilarious chaos. The characters, from Armie Hammer’s suave trash talking Ord to Sharlto Copley’s weaselly Vernon, are all charismatic degenerates that make you want them killed just as much as you want them to survive.

If the film has a flaw, it is in those occasional dry spots where characters seem to be firing back in forth with no rhyme or reason. But that’s almost part of the fun. The only characters that seem to remain calm are too busy trying aimlessly to keep their moronic allies alive. As a result, Free Fire never feels too long or uninteresting. It plays out like a giant game of Russian roulette and by the time the climax rolls around, you’ll be glad you watched it all unfold.

FINAL GRADE: A

Free Fire (Full Review)

Unforgettable (Full Review)

Here we go again. Another film about a crazy love triangle that ends in a same sex brawl. Hollywood seems intent on pooping one of these out at least once a year. And if you’ve read my reviews of Boy Next Door, The Perfect Guy, or When the Bough Breaks… you can probably guess which direction this review is going in.

Unforgettable_2017_posterRosario Dawson stars as an internet blogger and former victim of an abusive relationship who moves across the country to live with her new fiancé (Geoff Stults). As she attempts to build a loving relationship with her new beau’s young daughter, she soon finds herself dealing with his psychotic baby mama (Katherine Heigl) who will do anything to get her family back.

Heigl’s character takes crazy ex  to the extreme, and she fits the role perfectly (although I’m not sure that’s a good thing). Her bug eyed performance almost makes the movie delve into the “so bad it’s actually good” territory. Almost. The movie as a whole is too busy being held back by sheer narrative incompetence to find even B-movie enjoyment. Dawson’s character is a moron who makes so many poor decisions it’s hard to actually pull for her and Stults has the personality of a wet paper bag.

The movie plays out exactly how you’d expect, without a single thread veering into anything truly suspenseful all the way into an ending that laughably attempts to set up a sequel. So Unforgettable ends up being the most forgettable movie I’ve seen in a while. It’s almost mind boggling that writers keep finding new spins on the same concept and yet have failed to make any of them truly interesting or memorable. The real question is, which actor with a flailing film career is going to pop up in the next one?

FINAL GRADE: F

Unforgettable (Full Review)

My Top 15 Favorite Film Musicals

Almost everyone, at some point in time, loved a musical. As children, musicals are one of the first genres we are exposed to thanks in large part to the Disney Renaissance of the late 80’s and 90’s. As a film buff who was also exposed to theater in college and has a sibling who is a dancer, the genre has always been one of my favorites (when done correctly). So here is the list of my Top 15 musical films of all time. There have been plenty of sensational musicals on Broadway over the years (*cough* Hamilton), but this is a movie blog so every movie on this list will be ranked based on the quality of the film as well as the music. Enjoy!

15. SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (1952)

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It only makes sense to start with a musical classic. Singin’ in the Rain is a staple of old Hollywood cinema and features vibrant set pieces and some fun choreography performed by an iconic cast. For all intents and purposes, it is the first film that comes to my mind when I think of classic musical films.

FAVORITE SONG: “Singin’ in the Rain” of course. It has a wonderful jazzy feel to it.

 

14. INTO THE WOODS (2014)

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This movie had great potential until its somewhat jarring and poorly fitting final act. But that doesn’t change the fact that this blending of classic fairy tales set to music by iconic composer Stephen Sondheim is an overall fun film with a great cast.

FAVORITE SONG: “Agony” is not only a great song, but seeing the two pompous princes (Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen) perform it is the funniest part in the movie.

 

13. THE WIZ (1978)

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The Motown re-imagining of L.Frank Baum’s classic novel doesn’t get enough credit. The set pieces and costumes are gorgeous. And you can’t go wrong musically with the likes of Diana Ross and Michael Jackson.

FAVORITE SONG: Young Michael Jackson’s soulful rendition of “You can’t win” will always be my favorite.

 

12. LES MISERABLES (2013)

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This would be much higher on the list if I actually enjoyed the movie as much as I enjoyed the stage performance. Casting Russell Crowe and Amanda Seyfried was almost an insult to the incredible music created by French composer Claude-Michel Schonberg. I was also not a fan of having the actors sing live rather than having the songs dubbed like most musicals. But Hugh Jackman was amicable as Jean Valjean and Anne Hathaway, Eddie Redmayne, and Samantha Barks all give sensational performances.

FAVORITE SONG: Not even Russell Crowe and Amanda Seyfried’s lackluster vocals can spoil “One Day More”.

 

11. THE LAST FIVE YEARS (2014)

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This film is undoubtedly the least known as it was essentially only released On-Demand. But if you’re a fan of musicals or romantic comedies, I suggest you check it out. The film chronicles the relationship between a struggling actress (Anna Kendrick) and a successful writer (Jeremy Jordan). It earns points for its unique non-linear narrative along with a great soundtrack.

FAVORITE SONG: The song “A Part of That” shows off Kendrick’s enchanting vocals and also personifies her character’s inner struggle with the success of her significant other while her career sputters.

 

10. DREAMGIRLS (2006)

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This film featured an all star cast that included Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé, Eddie Murphy, Anika Noni Rose, and famously won Jennifer Hudson a much deserved Academy Award. It does get a bit lengthy, but what Broadway musical turned film doesn’t?

FAVORITE SONG: While I love the song “Heavy”, because it has a Destiny’s Child vibe to it, it’s only about a minute and a half long, I’ll go with the obvious choice in “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” which was powerfully performed by Hudson.

 

9. IDLEWILD (2006)

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This film is highly underrated and features incredible Hip Hop duo Outkast in their musical production debut. It also helped launch the career of Paula Patton. A unique hip hop musical before the likes of Hamilton, this film features some great cinematography (albeit a bit jarring at times) as well as a soundtrack that’s basically just another Outkast album.

FAVORITE SONG: “Movin’ Cool” (which ironically isn’t on the official soundtrack) is a wonderful duet that also marks one of the most endearing moments in the film when Andre 3000’s Percival helps Patton’s Sally B. Shelly become the actual star she had been posing as.

 

8. ALADDIN (1992)

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You didn’t think this was going to be a list of greatest musicals and not include Disney films, did you? Well get ready, because they’re about to come in droves. This film is an animated classic and features a ton of iconic songs as well as some great characters like The Genie.

FAVORITE SONG: “A Whole New World” is easily the best romantic ballad in all of Disney history.

 

7. THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG (2009)

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The most underappreciated Disney film of all time. The characters were fun and endearing, but what won me over was the music which carries a beautiful touch of New Orleans jazz that is fitting and unique.

FAVORITE SONG: “Friends on the Other Side” is my all time favorite villain song and the scene probably would’ve given me nightmares if I wasn’t 21 years old when I first saw it.

 

6. THE PRINCE OF EGYPT (1998)

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Take notes Ridley Scott. THIS is how you tell the story of Moses. This is still the greatest non-Disney animated musical ever made. The animation is vibrant and pays homage to the art of the era and the music (written by Stephen Schwartz and Hans Zimmer) is nothing short of breathtaking.

FAVORITE SONG: Choosing the late Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey’s rendition of “When You Believe” would be a cop out since it isn’t in the actual movie until the end credits, so I’ll go with the hauntingly beautiful “The Plagues” which features a duet between Moses (performed by Amick Byram) and his brother turned enemy, Rameses (Ralph Fiennes).

 

5. LA LA LAND (2016)

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I knew there was a reason I had waited to post my list of favorite musicals. La La Land was one of my favorite films of 2016 and it featured captivating performances by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as well as some excellent jazz music fused with the style of old Hollywood.

FAVORITE SONG: “Someone In the Crowd” is a great toe tapping arrangement and the scene features some sensational cinematography.

4. THE LION KING (1992)

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I originally had this higher on my totem pole until I realized I loved the story and characters more than the music itself. But that’s not to say the music isn’t great as well. Lion King still has the best intro song of any Disney musical and all of the songs are memorable.

FAVORITE SONG: “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” arranged by Elton John, comes in a close second. But my favorite is “Hakuna Matata”… duh. It means no worries. Who knew the safari was so hip to jazz music?

 

3. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1991)

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Emphasis on the 1991 version. The remake was fine, but Emma Watson doesn’t have the vocal range of Paige O’Hara. This film features one of the most angelic compositions in any movie to date and it helps that the story itself is full of memorable characters.

FAVORITE SONG: The title song, performed by the great Angela Lansbury, is a fan favorite. But my actual favorite song from the film is the opening number titled “Belle”.

 

2. SWEENEY TODD (2007)

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Tim Burton’s grungy, wonderfully gory and gothic, musical horror film adaptation is not actually as great as the musical stage play I once saw in person at my alma mater (UNCG), but it’s still excellent. Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, and the late Alan Rickman deserve credit for holding their own musically and not spoiling Stephen Sondheim’s vivacious soundtrack. If the movie had true vocalists, this would actually be #1 on my list as it is my favorite musical (excluding Hamilton).

FAVORITE SONG: As a fun and exciting duet that is ironically vibrant and boisterous despite being the prelude of attempted murder, “Pretty Women” is the epitome of the overall tone of the film.

 

1. MULAN (1998)

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One of my favorite animated films features a soundtrack that I believe is flawless. The empowering story is also great so this film is in this spot simply because it is the ultimate combination of wonderful music infused with the culture of its setting and a movie worth watching even without the music.

FAVORITE SONG: Let’s get down to business, to defeat the Hun. Did they send me daughters, when I asked for sons? You’re the saddest bunch I’ve ever met, but you can bet before we’re through… mister “I’ll Make a Man Out of You!” Yes… I wrote that without looking up the lyrics. Judge away.

 

Honorable Mention: West Side Story (1961), Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), Hairspray (2007), Chicago (2002), Lady and the Tramp (1955), Pocahontas (1995), Tangled (2007), Moana (2016)

Think I left something off of my list? Feel free to comment and share! And if you have any suggestions for other lists, feel free to comment them below! Thanks for reading!

My Top 15 Favorite Film Musicals