Bro-Reviews: Logan Lucky

Ocean’s 7-Eleven.

The heist genre can be quite tricky to pull off now these days. While most moviegoers themselves fantasize of stealing a large sum of cash in the hopes of a rags-to-riches storybook ending, audiences have seen this story played out dozens upon dozens of times. The only director who seemed to get it right two out of the three times he directed such a film was Steven Soderbergh, who announced his retirement three years ago much to the dismay of film buffs around the globe. However, Soderbergh has ended his retirement and returned to the all-too-familiar heist film genre with his latest project, Logan Lucky.

Logan Lucky centers on Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum), a would be NFL quarterback had he not blown out his knee at LSU, thus continuing a family curse that also extends to his his one-handed Iraq veteran brother, Clyde Logan (Adam Driver). After Jimmy is fired from his construction job, he and Clyde devise an elaborate plan to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway with the help of their sister Mellie Logan (Riley Keough) and incarcerated explosives expert Joe Bang (Daniel Craig).

Logan Lucky rests upon the shoulders of its performers, and everyone brings their A-game to the picture. Channing Tatum continues to prove why he is one of the most  sought after A-listers in Hollywood today, bringing to life a smarter-than-you-think character who is doing this just to remain closer to his daughter. Adam Driver also gives a great performance as the down and out younger brother, and it’s roles such as these that allow Driver to expertly portray his awkwardness to make his character seem ever-so appealing. The rest of the ensemble also performs well in the film, particularly Katie Holmes, whose portrayal of Jimmy’s ex-wife makes you wish you had the gumption to pick-up a Southern belle like her. Hilary Swank also makes a welcome return to the mainstream in the third act of the film as a hard-nosed FBI investigator, and it’s great to see a talent like her back where she belongs.

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However, it’s Daniel Craig’s Joe Bang who steals the show. Craig has of course always had the reputation of a suave actor due to his excellent turn as James Bond, but he immerses himself so much into his red-neck character you understand why Steven Soderbergh chooses to bill him as “and introducing Daniel Craig as Joe Bang”. It’s as if he has actually discovered a new bona fide character actor out there, and there’s no doubt Craig should be up for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar come next March. Soderbergh also returns with his slick and stylish direction that brings life to the heist. Soderbergh is also able to get the most out his performers, continuing his winning streak of being able to work with and properly direct actors, something that seems to come at a premium these days with most directors.

What helps Logan Lucky rise above its otherwise generic plot is the setting and its willingness to dive into it. These are poor, simple folk we’re following in the film, and there’s something refreshing about having poorer people in the South be the heroes we root for instead of the pretty and attractive people we see in most other heist films. The film’s Southern charm made the characters rather charming and likeable, particularly when you realize that although these characters aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed, they are in fact smarter than you think and are counting on you buying into that stereotype so that they can set out what they want to accomplish. Logan Lucky is the anti- Ocean’s 11. It’s not glitzy and glamorous, it’s grimy and rednecky. As one of the extras in the film says, it’s Ocean’s 7-Eleven.

If there’s anything to gripe about regarding the film, it’s that its not as hilarious as it’s been marketed. The marketing campaign would have you believe it’s an all-out hillbilly robbery romp, but it’s more a heist film with quirky characters and a surprisingly good amount of heart. One of the performers that tries to play it up for laughs is Seth McFarlane, who never quite jells in his NASCAR sponsor role to be memorable and or effective in the film.

Overall, Logan Lucky is one of those rare late-summer releases that’s actually a good movie. It’s the kind of film Burt Reynolds would have excelled in and made a boat-load of money back in the 1960s and 1970s. With exceptional performances, great direction, and willingness to get down and dirty, Logan Lucky marks a welcome return for legendary director Steven Soderbergh and is more than worth one last trip to the theater before Labor Day.

Rating: 3/4 Stars. Pay Full Price.

Logan Lucky stars Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, Riley Keough, Katie Holmes, Seth McFarlane, Katherine Waterson, Dwight Yoakam, Brian Gleeson, Jack Quaid, and Hilary Swank. It is in theaters Friday, August 18th.

Bro-Reviews: The Hitman’s Bodyguard

When Deadpool met Nick Fury.

It’s typically around the month of August we see the summer movie season slow down considerably. Although recent years have seen the release of blockbuster films such as Guardians of the Galaxy and Suicide Squad, August is the month many studios reserve for dumping films they have no confidence in in the hopes that audiences will go see them out of pure boredom. Many of these films are mindless, over-the-top action films catered to action junkies, and Summit Entertainment is hoping the presence of Mr. Deadpool Ryan Reynolds and Nick Fury Samuel L. Jackson will propel those junkies to go see the latest R-rated action buddy-comedy, The Hitman’s Bodyguard.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard stars Ryan Reynolds as Michael Bryce, a former special protection agent who laments on his career whilst still protecting lesser clientele after a job that went sideways. When an Interpol transport mission is intercepted by the enemy, Interpol agent and Michael’s ex-flame Amelia (Élodie Yung) calls upon him for help transporting a witness to the trial of a power-hungry Eastern European dictator, Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman). That witness happens to be Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), a hitman and Michael’s rival. Despite their hatred for one another, the two must band together to make it to the International Court of Justice in England in time to put Dukhovich in jail once and for all.

Before going any further, one must note the first trailer for this film was cut expertly, with Samuel L. Jackson cursing up a storm, loads of explosions, and the late Whitney Houston belting out her famous rendition of “I will always love you.” It was marketed as an anti-The Bodyguard, the 1992 smash hit starring Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston. The trailer made me very excited to see the movie, but unfortunately, the trailer is better than the actual feature length film.

While Jackson and Reynolds do have chemistry, the two aren’t straining to portray characters, they’re playing themselves. Reynolds is in peak snarky but capable form, and continues to showcase he can rise above otherwise pedestrian material. Samuel L. Jackson is in peak “Samuel L. Jackson” form, yelling four letter swear words every other line of dialogue and clearly having a blast doing so. The two are well matched together, but the surrounding material just isn’t there for them to gain any momentum and carry the film by themselves.

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Salma Hayek, save for the typical cleavage shots, one butt-kicking action sequence, and one joke with another prisoner, is utterly wasted in the film. Her scenes consist of her swearing, swearing in Spanish, and exploitative cleavage shots. That’s it. Gary Oldman is sleepwalking through the film as the villain, and it’s time to hold him accountable for giving terrible performances in films such as this, The Unborn, Paranoia, and Red Riding Hood. There’s no doubt Oldman is a talented actor and can give a great performance when he feels like it, but he far too often chooses to take “for the money” roles such as this and goes through the motions.

The film also has jarring tonal shifts within the first 30 minutes or so. Scenes of Oldman’s Dukhovich slaughtering innocent people are meant to make us fear him, but then the film cuts to Reynolds and Jackson quipping one-liners in an attempt to make the audience laugh-off the otherwise horrendous events we’ve just witnessed. The film is also far too long at 118 minutes, as a tighter, quicker film could’ve improved it tremendously. It doesn’t help the film is also riddled with cheap-looking special effects and actors from other late-summer action films such as Sam Hazeldine (Riah Crane AKA the bad guy in Mechanic: Resurrection) to remind you you’re watching a late summer action film, and not a quality one.

Although the special effects are quite cheap-looking, the action sequences are brutal and do deliver. Director Patrick Hughes has shown he’s capable of staging action scenes very well in the underappreciated Expendables 3, and his direction of the action in the film livens it up. One must particularly note the final car chase, which displays Hughes’ talent for filming thrilling action. It’s these scenes that ultimately made me forgive the film for it’s otherwise cheap feel save for the leads they were able to sign onto the film.

Ultimately, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is a disposable, substandard, harmless late summer action film that has the saving grace of two well matched leads and enough adrenaline pumping action. However, one cannot help but notice the film surrounding the two leads and action sequences isn’t up to par with them, ultimately leaving viewers an expandable and forgettable action buddy-comedy film.

Rating: 2/4 Stars. Rent it.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard stars Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, Élodie Yung, Salma Hayek, Richard E. Grant, Sam Hazeldine, Kirsty Mitchell, and Joaquim de Almeida. It is in theaters Friday, August 18th.

 

 

Bro-Reviews: The Dark Tower

One (frustrating) step away from an epic.

Let’s face it folks, making a movie is never easy. Adapting legendary literature beloved by many people into a film is near impossible. This has never stopped Hollywood before, as “unfilmable” classics such as World War Z, Watchmen, Cloud Atlas, and Atlas Shrugged have all been adapted into feature length films, yielding mixed results at best. One of these classic works of literature that has also been label “unadaptable” is The Dark Tower by legendary author Stephen King. With an expansive universe that has been built for many years through numerous books, The Dark Tower could never get out of production hell, recycling through directors such as J.J. Abrams and Ron Howard. Years later, however, The Dark Tower has finally arrived in theaters, hoping to break the “unadaptable”/”unfilmable” curse.

The Dark Tower sees 11-year-old child Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) experiencing nightmares of a parallel universe called “The Mid-World”. Convinced his dreams are true, Jake sets off for an adventure to explore this universe, which he eventually discovers and befriends Roland (Idris Elba), a Gunslinger sworn to protect the Mid-World. Roland is on a quest to find the Dark Tower, the nexus point between time and space, in hopes to save all existence from extermination. However, Walter o’Dim/ The Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) is hot on the unlikely duo’s trail, and the two’s mission appears to be near impossible to complete.

Throughout the development of the Dark Tower, rumors circulated the film was too big for director Nikolaj Arcel to grasp, with initial test screenings panning the film for being too convoluted and lacking in special effects. This of course led to re-shoots and studio interference to try to make the film more accessible to mainstream audiences in the hopes of making a bankable summer blockbuster. As I stated earlier, The Dark Tower has always had the reputation of being near impossible to adapt to the big screen, and that’s the case for many of Stephen King’s works. The Dark Tower was more than likely never going to be the epic hardcore fans had hoped for, but as it stands, there’s evidence The Dark Tower was closer to being an epic than one might have originally thought.

Idris Elba continues his ascension to the top of the A-List with his turn as Roland. Elba is undeniably cool as the legendary gunslinger, and he projects his sense of frustration and seemingly aimless wandering due to the damage Walter o’Dim/ the Man in Black has done to the Mid-World and all of the other gunslingers. The Dark Tower serves as further proof the Elba is an actor to be reckoned with. Matthew McConaughey is delightfully creepy and suave as Walter o’Dim/ The Man in Black, and appears to be having a blast in the role. He’s also able to convey a sense of dread and impending doom every time he appears on screen, once again adding another tremendous performance in McConaughey’s “McConaissance” that has been going strong since 2011’s The Lincoln Lawyer. Although there are moments of bad child acting, Tom Taylor is an appealing enough actor as Jake Chambers to display his wonder when first encountering the Mid-World and eagerness to help Roland, as he and Elba as make for a nice duo.

Matthew McConaughey;Idris Elba

Of course, one would be remiss if they did not mention whether or not the Mid-World is realized in any fashion. There’s definitely enough imagery within the film that makes King’s parallel universe come to life, which is impressive considering the film’s muted $60 million budget. Scenes in which children are being strapped to machines and using their “shine” in an attempt to bring down the tower are frightening and original, giving the film a much needed chilly atmosphere. This atmosphere is also bolstered with the barren wasteland of the Mid-World, an abandoned theme park, a village safe haven, and secret Mid-World societies in the heart of New York City Roland and Jake come across during the film’s 95 minute run time.While the special effects are nothing to marvel at, they’re good enough to be passable in a film that clearly had budget restrictions.

However, therein lies one of the issues preventing The Dark Tower from rising above an otherwise conventional fantasy film. Although I’ve said it before, it needs to be said again; The Dark Tower was never going to have a seamless transition to the silver screen. King has written 8 books in the series, and never truly concluded his epic saga. With that in mind, it’s very disappointing the film was restricted to a lower budget and not allowed to be the $100 million summer blockbuster it could have been in order to have the Mid-World and all of its intricacies come to life. Action scenes involving the creatures of the Mid-World are so dark you can’t really follow what’s occurring on screen, somewhat muting the film’s otherwise stylish and pulpy action sequences. It would have been even more terrifying to see all of the monsters and creatures Roland gives exposition about when explaining how the tower guards the universe from such monsters and then see him do battle with them. The film also feels hacked to the bone at 95 minutes, and one cannot help but feel the studio interference in the film in order to make the film more appealing to a wide audience. At 95 minutes, the film could’ve used an extra half hour of set-up, exposition, and action to make The Dark Tower be the epic film it should have been.

Also plaguing the film are the 20 minutes or so we see Jake in the real world/ keystone earth. Much of the dialogue during this time is laughably bad, and it does not help that the young actors in these scenes clearly needed another take or more acting lessons in order for them to not come across as actors but as actual children living in New York City. On top of that, the ending of the film clearly has a rushed, “we ran out of money” vibe, leaving one with somewhat of a sour taste in their mouth as they exit the theater.

By no means is The Dark Tower a great movie, but it’s not terrible either. Considering most of the other Stephen King films such as Pet Sematary, The Mist, and Dreamcatcher that were all quite bad, The Dark Tower stands as one of the better Stephen King adaptations.  Unfortunately, one cannot but help but feel the studio interference onscreen while watching the film. The result is a near epic film that needed more time and money to have Stephen King’s legendary vision fully realized, rendering it somewhat conventional. Despite the feeling of what could have been, The Dark Tower is bolstered by Elba’s and McConaughey’s performances, has enough imagery, and stylized action to justify a trip to the theater.

Rating: 2.5/4. Pay Matinée Price.

The Dark Tower stars Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor, Claudia Kim, Fran Kanz, Abbey Lee Kershaw, Jackie Earle Hayley, and Dennis Haysbert. It is in theaters Friday, August 4th.

Bro-Reviews: Dunkirk

Dud-kirk.

Christopher Nolan is undoubtedly one of the most masterful directors working today, but the case could also be made he’s one of the greatest directors of all time. From small budgeted independent films like Memento, to original triumphs like Inception, all the way to the Dark Knight trilogy, Nolan has proven himself to be a true auteur. However, many would agree Nolan may have lost a step with the release of the bloated and cheesy Interstellar in 2014, a major disappointment in the eyes of many. Three years later, Nolan has created another epic film being hailed as a masterpiece based on the true story of the Battle of Dunkirk during the half of World War II America always ignores, Dunkirk.

In Dunkirk, the Nazi Germany army has surrounded the British and French armies, forcing them to retreat to the beaches of Dunkirk. It is there where the soldiers await and pray for the arrival of help whilst being under constant attack by the Nazis. We follow a couple of foot soldiers attempting to escape Dunkirk within a span of a week, Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) and Alex (Harry Styles), a father (Mark Rylance) and son (Tom Glynn-Carney) sailing to Dunkirk to rescue the stranded soldiers in a span of a day, and Royal Air Force Pilots Farrier (Tom Hardy) and Collins (Jack Lowden) fighting off Nazi bomber planes in the span of an hour.

As I stated earlier, Nolan has full control of the films he makes at this point in his career. Dunkirk is another example of Nolan’s stranglehold on his projects, as the film is beautifully shot while retaining an apocalyptic, doomed atmosphere much like the battle itself. On top of that, the battle sequences put you in the middle of the action, making you jump at every sound of a gun shot to the point that you too want to spring from your seat in the theater and run for cover. From a technical standpoint, Dunkirk might be Christopher Nolan’s most masterful work yet.

However, what prevents Dunkirk from rising to being a great film and one of the most powerful war films ever is the utter lack of characterization in the film. To put it bluntly, Dunkirk doesn’t have characters, it has people. Even though I listed the characters’ names in the synopsis, you cannot recall their names without looking at a cast of “characters” list, that’s how expendables and unmemorable they are. Sure, the whole feeling of dread and wanting to escape is present, but other than wanting to survive/ make it home, we don’t empathize with these people. As an audience member, I wanted to know what specifically these people would miss out on should they perish. Are they trying to escape because they have families back home? Are they sailing to danger because they have an overwhelming feeling of nationalism and want to serve their country? Heck, we don’t even get the cliche’ of a solider pulling out a picture of his girlfriend and saying he can’t wait to see her again.

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As I stated earlier, Nolan more than likely has final cut and other overreaching decision making powers whenever he wants to make a project. It’s important to point this out, as Nolan not only directed this film, he also wrote it. This is nothing new as it pertains to Nolan, as he has a writing credit for every single film he’s made with the exception of being uncredited as a writer for 2002’s Insomnia. One of the major criticisms of Interstellar was the writing in the film, and Dunkirk marks Nolan’s second straight misfire in the writing department. A writer’s job is to make the audience empathize and feel for the protagonists, to make them want to get up and cheer once they have accomplished their goal. To make the people that appear on screen human. That feeling never arises in Dunkirk. Sure, there are moments when the performers on screen are in peril or dire circumstances, but the only investment you have in these situations is the uncertainty of what is going to happen. You couldn’t care less whether or not these “characters” survive, and that fault should be placed squarely on the shoulders of Nolan.

With such underwritten characters present and lack of dialogue in the film, it’s hard to judge the performances Dunkirk. Every teenybopper’s dream boat of the moment and One Direction member Harry Styles makes his much anticipated acting debut in the film, but one can hardly judge his acting capabilities since he gets lost in the shuffle of all of the indispensable soldiers in the film. At this point, it seems like Christopher Nolan is determined to turn Tom Hardy into Batman supervillain Bane, as he is muffled by a plane mask throughout the film, a total waste of Mr. Hardy’s many talents. Veteran actors Kenneth Branagh and Mark Rylance (who might as well be wearing a tee shirt with the inscription I AM THE SPIRIT OF THE FILM) come across as the best performers, but with such minimal dialogue, Dunkirk might have been the easiest acting job they’ve had in their lengthy careers.

With all of the power Nolan has over his projects now, it’s as if no one bothers to give him notes, or as if he believes he is above them. Someone should’ve met with Nolan and said while his behind the camera craftsmanship is tremendous, the people in his movie are lifeless, inconsequential pawns lacking humanity. Had this occurred, there’s the possibility Nolan would’ve gone back to the drawing board and fleshed these people out further other than bunching them all into the theme of survival. However, maybe Nolan rules with an iron fist and no longer listens to such constructive criticism, opting to instead make his films his way. One can hardly blame him due to his impeccable resume, but one can only live off of their reputation for so long.

Do not make the mistake of thinking Dunkirk is a bad movie. From a technical standpoint, Dunkirk is nothing short of masterful. From a writing and emotional investment perspective, Dunkirk is one of the most underwritten films in a long time. While I’m sure everyone will ridicule me and say “You just don’t get it.”, and maybe I truly don’t, I will not allow a great filmmaker such as Nolan off the hook for woefully underwriting the people in this film. Someone needs to stand up to him and tell him his writing abilities have woefully diminished over his last two films, but maybe I’ll be the only one to do so. Dunkirk is nothing to marvel at and laud, if anything, don’t believe the hype.

Rating: 2/4 Stars. Rent it.

Bro-Reviews: War for the Planet of the Apes

Ape-ocalypse Now.

Planet of the Apes is one of the last remnants of classic Hollywood still alive today. Back in the late 1960s and 1970s, a release of a Planet of the Apes movie was an event, as moviegoers flocked to see an epic sci-fi story of an alternative universe where apes ruled planet earth. 2001 saw a re-make of the film, directed by Tim Burton and starring Mark Wahlberg. That version was savaged by critics and fans alike, leading to the cancellation of any future sequels. 2011 saw a revival of the franchise in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a thrilling new take on what was essentially a re-boot of the classic franchise. While many praised its sequel released in 2014, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, I found myself disappointed in the film. Due to Dawn’s critical acclaim and financial success, however, the epic and final chapter of Caesar and his primates has arrived in the form of War for the Planet of the Apes.

War for the Planet of the Apes sees Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his apes seeking refuge away from humans, who still blame the apes for the Simian Flu outbreak and for the current state of the world no thanks to the actions of Koba two years earlier in Dawn. The particular humans they are at war with are a clan known as Alpha-Omega, led by the ruthless and seemingly apathetic Colonel (Woody Harrelson). After Alpha-Omega attack Caesar and his tribe in their refuge in the woods, Caesar goes on a vengeful mission to kill the Colonel and end the war between apes and humans once and for all.

If there were ever a time to praise a film for its ability to create a big-budgeted blockbuster while avoiding the typical tropes of such blockbusters, this would be the time. War for the Planet of the Apes is able to be an engrossing, emotional film with minimal dialogue, as it substitutes dialogue for some of the best reaction shot acting ever captured on film. The film relies upon these reactions to pull the emotions out of the audience, and War leaves you feeling every single emotion there is throughout during its near two-and-a-half-hour run-time. At the same time, the film also delivers on its title, as the action/ war sequences are nothing short of thrilling, leaving you on the edge of your seat.

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Within the confines of the film is also emotional complexity that you not only do not see in summer movies, but do not even see in some movies period. We feel Caesar’s plight and wanting to be left alone, yet completely side with him once he decides to go after the Colonel. We laugh at the quirkiness of Bad Ape (Steve Zahn) yet empathize with him since he too has experienced pain and suffering that has led him to becoming a hermit. The tenderness of the relationship between Maurice (Karn Kornoval) Nova (Amiah Miller) is nothing short of sweet and tear-jerking, representing one of the best parent child relationships we’ve seen on film in quite some time. Even though the film wants us to root against our very kind thanks to Woody Harrelson’s harrowing performance as the Colonel, we understand his motivations and the decisions he makes in order to protect the human race. It’s emotional depth, investment, and complexity like this that sets War for the Planet of the Apes above and beyond the rest of the pack.

The motion capture technology used in the film is nothing short of extraordinary, as the apes look more realistic than ever in this epic final chapter. This technology, however, wouldn’t be anything without the casting of such tremendous actors who are able to capture the spirit and likeness of actual primates. They are of course led by the great Andy Serkis, who continues to exploit his niche of motion capture acting and delivers yet another showstopping performance as Caesar. It’s times such as these where I believe the Academy of Arts and Sciences should seriously consider motion capture actors for acting awards, as Andy Serkis’ performance of the apes’ leader is not only deserving of recognition, but is the best acting performance you’ll see this summer.

The film also draws many parallels to slavery and the journey of Moses to the promised land, adding even more compound aspects to a film that is being released during a time in which most audiences are looking for escapist entertainment. The Planet of the Apes films have always had some sort of uncomfortable comparison to racial tensions back in the late 1960s due to certain people’s reluctance to accept the Civil Rights Movement, but War also seems to be the most contemporary Planet of the Apes film to date. One can’t help but think of Donald Trump’s psychotic plans regarding the border of Mexico after the mere mention of the Alpha Omega clan building something in order to keep certain people out of there military camp, adding a composite nationalist mentality to the humans that is even more enhanced in the real world today.

In a summer filled with franchises that have well overstayed their welcome, War for the Planet of the Apes is a spectacular triumph. A film such as War should be praised immensely for having the courage of its convictions by not only having limited dialogue and packing an emotional punch, but also for delivering the type of explosive action we’ve come to expect summer blockbusters to provide. It’s an ambitious film that dares to defy the action and drama genres all at once. Three films into the re-imagining of the franchise, War for the Planet of the Apes is the strongest Planet of the Apes film yet, and administers an enthralling and satisfying conclusion to Caesar’s saga.

Rating: 4/4 Stars. Pay Full Price.

 

Bro-Reviews: Wish Upon

Wish upon a better movie.

As it pertains to the horror film genre, there’s very little material out there that is new and original. Filmmakers have resorted to taking tried and tired premises and repeating them over and over again in the hopes that younger audiences who have not seen these premises before will be fooled into thinking the material they are being presented with is something that’s never been done before. Once again, Hollywood producers are trying to hoodwink and bamboozle audiences, and their latest attempt to trick us has come in the form of a new “horror” film, Wish Upon, from upstart distributor Broad Green Pictures.

Wish Upon sees Claire Shannon (Joey King) struggling through life ever since her mother committed suicide when she was a child. Her high school life is also a chore, as she is unpopular, bullied and goes unnoticed by her crush. One day, her hoarder father Jonathan (Ryan Phillippe) stumbles upon an ancient Chinese music box, which Claire learns grants wishes and turns them into reality. After making wishes that change her life for the better, bloody terror breaks out and hurts the ones she cares for. Claire must then solve the mystery of how to make the carnage stop before it’s too late.

This is an exact replica of “The Monkey’s Paw”. For the uninitiated, “The Monkey’s Paw” was a book by W.W. Jacobs published in 1902 that has since been adapted into numerous films, with the basic premise being three different people can hold the monkey’s paw item and it will grant them three different wishes. While the wishes come true, there is a blood price for the ones who made the wishes to pay since they are altering fate. Wish Upon takes this premise and puts it in a high-school setting, resulting in one of the most embarrassing blunders ever released in theaters.

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Joey King is a fine young actress and does what she can with the material, but she comes across as a junkie who hasn’t had her fix in the film. I firmly believe the filmmakers kidnapped poor Ryan Phillippe after he went out on an all night drinking-bender and just threw him onscreen, as throughout the film he looks as if he is crying for help and wondering where his once promising career has gone. Jerry O’ Connell also appears in the film for about 30 seconds, making me wonder if he too was strong-armed into doing this film because he owed the mafia some money. The rest of the cast consists of mainly no-names who should never work in film again, as they deliver their terrible dialogue like a high schooler performing in a play that’s only there because they need the extracurricular activity credit to graduate.

The actual use of the premise is inconsistent throughout as well. Once a wish is granted, someone close to Claire is supposed to die. However, people die in the movie that Claire is neither close to nor is even related to, so the film can’t even stick to its tried and tested premise in an attempt to make a compelling film. The only time the film is even marginally suspenseful is a scene in which the filmmakers use the cheap gimmick of showing two different people experiencing dangerous situations while leaving you guessing who’s going to be the one that gets it.

One aspect of horror films that is quiet necessary to qualify it as a horror film is providing scares, which Wish Upon can’t even wish for. Even if a horror film isn’t particularly scary, it can be improved in an exploitative fashion by quenching the audiences’ blood thirst. Wish Upon is largely bloodless throughout, so it doesn’t even go for the cheap exploitation in the hopes that its PG-13 rating will lure in dumb, unassuming teenagers who still believe the Paranormal Activity movies are real. The film also tries to blend comedy into the mix, as numerous snarky teenagers quip one-liners and do “things millennials do” despite the horror that is occurring around them. Most of the laughs are unintentional, and one must highlight Shannon Purser’s dramatic “THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT” line, as it provided one of the biggest unintentional laughs I’ve ever experienced in my life.

Somewhere buried deep within the incompetency of it, there’s a decent movie that Wish Upon could’ve been. Instead, what we have is an incompetent, bloodless, not scary “horror” film that insults the audiences’ intelligence with its predictable themes that have been retreaded for the thousandth time. Had it not been for the laugh inducing middle-finger-to-the-audience ending/ payoff, Wish Upon couldn’t wish for even a half a star rating. In the end, Wish Upon will leave you wishing you had stayed at home and read “The Monkey’s Paw” instead.

Rating: 0.5/ 4 Stars. Stay Away.

 

 

Bro-Reviews: Spider-Man: Homecoming

A friendly neighborhood homecoming.

Spider-Man is not only one of the most beloved comic book heroes of all time, he’s also one of the most prized possessions in Hollywood, with Sony and Marvel Studios/ Disney currently sharing custody of the web slinger. How we got to this point is simple, Sony kept making awful movies (*Cough* Spider-Man 2, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 *Cough*) in an effort to retain the rights to the property, and fans and movie goers alike eventually rejected the films. Not only did these films lead to Sony cancelling plans to their planned spideyverse with The Sinister Six, but also led Marvel Studios/ Disney to finally step in and show Sony how it’s done. After a spectacular debut in Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man has returned for another solo outing in the re-boot Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Spider-Man: Homecoming sees high school prodigy Peter Parker struggling to remain interested in his mundane high school life while wanting to expand his reach as the popular super hero, Spider-Man. He sees an opportunity to prove himself as a capable hero to Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) by going after Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), a former salvaging company owner who turns to selling weapons made by the Chitauri aliens from The Avengers, including creating his own vulture suit, to make a living.

There’s little doubt the change of setting to high school makes Spider-Man Homecoming the funniest Spider-Man film to date. This is thanks mostly to Peter’s best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), who has many laugh out loud moments in the film. Zendaya also has quirky moments as Michele, and proves herself to be an up and coming starlet. Tom Holland’s portrayal of Peter Parker is probably the best in terms of the high school version of the character, as his nerdiness and awkwardness are captured brilliantly particularly when he attempts to win the attention of his love interest Liz (Laura Harrier). This could be because the entire film takes place in this setting whereas the previous films didn’t spend much time focusing on Peter’s high school experiences, but it’s still nonetheless done well.

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Even though most of the jokes surrounding her are “wow look how hot she is”, Marissa Tomei gives a solid performance as Aunt May. She may not reach the tear-jerking levels of Rosemary Harris, but Tomei does a fine job of portraying a caring, worrywart aunt we all have. Michael Keaton (*A.K.A. Batman*) delivers a menacing performance as the Vulture. Keaton is undeniably likeable as the little guy who’s just trying to stick it to the man, and It’s a delight to see him take on villainous roles at this stage of his career. If his turn as the central villain proves anything, his career renaissance has taken yet another legendary turn.

During the first act, however, I was relatively unimpressed with the film. The angle of Parker being the young hotshot who wants to have more responsibility is a trope we’ve seen played out over and over again. On top of that, lackluster action sequences weren’t helping the film either. To be honest, the film during the first act felt like an exercise Marvel Studios/ Disney was doing just to cash-in. It didn’t have the same handcrafted feel Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man had back in 2002. And Holland, while very good, comes nowhere close to Tobey Maguire’s expert performance as Peter Parker/ Spider-Man.

Once the stakes are raised during an impressive action sequence on-top of the Washington Monument, Spider-Man: Homecoming knocks off the cobwebs and swings into high gear. It’s during the second and third acts we see more of Keaton, who comes across as the best spidey villain since Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin. Also, the relationship between Tony Stark and Peter Parker is expanded during these acts, and Robert Downey Jr. is not only as snarky as ever as Stark, but is also a great motivator and father figure to Peter in the film. The action sequences get more consequential and exciting as the film goes on, as the battle on the ferry and the climatic battle serve as impressive scenes that showcase Spider-Man and Vulture’s tremendous action chemistry.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is without a shout of a doubt better than the last four Spider-Man movies. It’s funny, contains great performances, and filled with enthralling action. However, due to it’s familiar themes, it never quite reaches the levels of the near perfect 2002 Spider-Man. While it’s definitely the second best Spider-Man film released to date, by its own merits, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a step in the right direction for the previously entangled web slinger.

Rating: 3/4 Stars: Pay Full Price.