Flatliners (2017) Full Review

What happens when scientists look for evidence of the afterlife? It’s a fascinating concept, if only because humans have a tendency to not trust things until they’ve experienced them on a personal level. But if you’re coming to Flatliners for eerie, hypothetical answers to the aforementioned question, keep on searching because this film is basically a cheesy horror film disguising itself as something deeper.

Flatliners_(2017)A remake of an early 90’s film, this Flatliners stars Ellen Page as Courtney, a medical student who seeks to connect with the afterlife after her sister dies in a car accident. With the help of her colleagues (Diego Luna, Nina Dobrev, James Norton, Kiersey Clemons), she embarks on an experiment to die and be resurrected. Despite gaining knowledge and clarity, their quest for the great beyond eventually has side effects that lead them down a dark path.

The movie spends half of its time introducing the characters who are mostly insufferable. James Norton’s Jamie is obnoxious while all of the female characters are either selfish or naively short sighted. Believing that any of them could be medical professionals is the real horror of the film. In fact, when things go south, you almost want all of them to get offed.

The horror does eventually come along and for a moment, the jump scares and eerie imagery is a bit exciting. But it all comes so fast and is resolved so easily, that the payoff isn’t worth the buildup. If you want an existential lesson on not crossing the line between life and death, you’ll be disappointed because the film drops that concept by the way side as soon as it focuses on trying to frighten the audience. Instead, you’ll get what feels like a lengthy B-movie that ends with an after school special lesson on owning up to your past mistakes.

FINAL GRADE: D

NEIGHBORS 2/ANGRY BIRDS REVIEWS

Unless you were smart enough to watch The Nice Guys this past weekend, or were catching Captain America: Civil War for the fifth time, you might not have had the best weekend at the movies. I had the unfortunate experience of catching a double feature of disappointments. But that’s why I’m here: To experience the hour and a half letdowns so you don’t have to!

Neighbors_2_Sorority_RisingNEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY RISING The first Neighbors film (2014), about a couple (Seth Rogen and Rosy Byrne) and their newborn baby being tormented by a relentlessly partying fraternity next door, was pretty decent enough. My biggest gripe was that the film’s funniest moments were given away in the trailers, but Zac Efron and Dave Franco provided enough laughs to make the movie worth seeing at least once. Now comes the inevitable sequel, which finds the couple a few years later, expecting another child and preparing to sell their house. The only problem is that a new partying sorority is moving in next door. Now the couple must team up with Efron in a prank war to rid themselves of their new female adversaries (Chloe Grace Moretz, Kiersey Clemons, Beanie Feldstein) in 30 days before the new home buyers back out.

I had high hopes for this film, mainly because the trailers were full of laughs. Unfortunately, like its predecessor, the funniest moments like Chloe Graze Moretz trying to run away with a phone she thinks is cordless, are all in the trailers. Zac Efron along with cameos from Dave Franco and the rest of the main Delta Psi frat members from the previous film provide some welcomed humor, but otherwise the movie is a massive step backwards. For one, the sorority members aren’t remotely funny and despite a feminist context to their existence, they’re not that likable either. Some of the gags work (such as the air bag scene which is funnier than the one in the first movie), but there’s also a ton of gross out jokes that are unpleasant even for those with the most immature senses of humor. The plot also fumbles over itself from the start. In the first film, Efron and company were mostly college seniors so a noise complaint was the best a call to the police could warrant. But this time around, the antagonists are minors who nightly engage in underage drinking and drug conception, making all of this seem absolutely unnecessary even if it is a comedy. FINAL GRADE: C-

 

The_Angry_Birds_Movie_posterANGRY BIRDS In a world where Emoji’s and Play-Doh are getting their own feature length films (it’s true, Google it), it isn’t in the least bit surprising that a popular cell phone game could get the animated kids movie treatment. Somehow, a game where tiny, flightless birds are fired via slingshot into structures created by green pigs is good enough source material for an hour and a half movie. Thus, we get the story of Red (Jason Sudeikis), an angry loner who teams up with his anger management classmates Bomb (Danny McBride) and Chuck (Josh Gad) to stop a Pig King (Bill Hader) and his minions from stealing all of the eggs from their bird village.

Despite its ridiculous premise, the movie lends itself to at least some form of success. Lessons about acceptance and friendship are decent takeaways for all of the little ones who may be watching this movie. The action in the final portion of the movie that harkens back to the video game, also looks good in 3D. But everything else about the film, from its relatively flat sight gags and slapstick humor to the overly kinetic plot, is an absolute mess. The story flows like a concept being pitched by an imaginative 4th grader who’s making it all up as he’s playing the game for the first time. Characters have inexplicable superpowers and random motives, and even the film’s principal conflict seemingly takes forever to actually manifest. There is so much good content available for kids these days, so a movie with a goofy premise, manic flow, and weak comedy is something anyone older than 7 years old might want to skip out on.

FINAL GRADE: D

 

 

DOPE (Full Review)

One of my favorite comedies with a predominantly African American cast is 1999’s The Wood starring Omar Epps and Taye Diggs. Few films manage to capture the camaraderie and angst of young black teens growing up together like that film did. Dope is the latest film from Rick Famuyiwa, the same director that brought us that classic film as well as another of my favorites, 2002’s Brown Sugar.

DopeTeaserPosterNarrated by producer Forest Whitaker, Dope let’s you know what it is from the start: A teen comedy with something strikingly important to say. The film follows Malcolm (Shameik Moore), a self proclaimed black nerd who idolizes 90’s hip hop culture, makes straight A’s and has dreams of attending Harvard. He plays in a rock band with his two friends; Hispanic goof Jib (Tony Revolori), and lesbian tomboy Diggy (Kiersey Clemons). Together they spend their days running from bullies, avoiding street gangs, and genuinely trying not to circumstantially die in the mean streets of Inglewood, California. After a beautiful girl (Zoe Kravitz) invites Malcolm to a party hosted by a notorious drug dealer (rapper A$ap Rocky), life starts to get crazy for the three teens. Caught up in a drug mix up, they are forced to figure out what to do with a backpack full of “molly”.

At times, the film is as chaotic as someone actually on drugs, but solid structuring helps navigate the often incoherent plot. A strong soundtrack, fused with some of the best hip hop songs of the late 80’s and 90’s, also helps establish a vibe that is similar to Famuyiwa’s past films. But the element that makes the film solid from start to finish is without a doubt the cast. Led by a strong performance from Shameik Moore, one that is reminiscent of Sean Nelson’s in The Wood, this film shines on the charisma of its young actors. The greatest comedies have clever jokes, great delivery, and entertaining slapstick. Moore excels in all three as does the vast majority of the rest of the cast.

But Dope is also more than just a comedy. Wedged between the comedic exterior is a film about the struggle and desperation any young teen has when trying to find himself or escape a negative environment. One scene in particular, involving a gun, hammers this point home in beautifully dramatic fashion. The film also manages to include some very poignant commentary on the nature of race, although this aspect isn’t as strongly executed.

Dope is dope, in every sense of the word. And it is one of the best comedies I’ve seen in quite a while. It may get lengthy, and at times the plot will be as difficult to comprehend as a psychological thriller, but you’ll laugh out loud and also be enlightened several times before the credits role.

FINAL GRADE: B+