Martian Movie Review

Guys I’ve got a great movie to tell you about!!

First, I want to say that I finished reading the book The Martian by Andrew Weir this week and loved it.  I normally don’t like a lot of modern novels but this book resisted the modern cliche of having the lead character be all brooding and conflicted.  It had the audaciousness to have a lead current-day character that is actually likable!!!  I seriously feel like that is so rare in modern books (even YA we get a lot of Bellas and dystopian brooding characters snooze…).

In both the movie and the book I loved the character of Mark Watney and found even the smallest victories compelling.  Plus, the overall story of his rescue is so exciting!

martianIf you don’t know The Martian is about an astronaut named Mark (Matt Damon) who is left in a storm by his crew on Mars.   Each day then presents Mark with a series of problems, which he uses his know-how as a botanist and scientist to solve.

martian8I never thought I would be so excited for a character growing potatoes but I’m telling you in both the book and movie it is so thrilling when he harvests crops on Mars just based on his ingenuity and smarts.

He’s also such a likable character.  In the movie and book much of his personality is presented through daily logs that he does.  In these entries he is serious but also extremely funny.  It feels like a well-rounded real person.  Matt Damon is just nerdy enough and cool enough to pass off both sides of Mark’s personality.  It really worked!

martian5It is perhaps easy to compare The Martian to Interstellar because both have Matt Damon as a marooned astronaut but they are totally different films.  One is a philosophical treatise on the meaning of life and the connection of individuals and the other is an engrossing action movie about a man trying to get rescued and survive.

It is perhaps closer to Gravity but that is really more of a thriller with Sandra Bullock’s character being much less of an expert and more a helpless pedestrian in space who has to figure out a way home. The tone in films is very different. I loved all 3 films so it is good company any way!

martian7The surrounding players around Damon really helped as well.  To me there wasn’t a single misfire in the cast. Director Ridley Scott did a great job and that is saying something considering some recent misfires like Exodus: Gods and Kings.   Jessica Chastain, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, and more play the crew that leaves Mark for dead.  For not being in that many scenes they are fleshed out characters that have to make difficult decisions about their lives verses one man left behind. Throughout the movie there is a looming question- ‘how valuable is one human being?’.

Jeff Daniels is great as the head of NASA. He has to deal with the bureaucratic side of things and could have been a one note bad man executive character but he’s not.  He’s practical but wants to do what is right as well.  Chiwetel Ejiofor is the mission director who becomes an advocate for Mark and in a way helps narrate the story back at home.  Kristen Wiig is the PR rep for NASA and she does a good job being practical like needing a good photo of Mark on Mars to sell the public on him while still intensely caring for him too.

Sean Bean is a director who refuses to see the practical, bureaucratic side of things and Donald Glover is a young astronomer who has a breakthrough that helps the rescue.  They all make such good use of their minimal screen time.

martian2I was totally engrossed in this picture.  It is the kind of film you want to finish and cheer.  And this works because Mark is such a good person.  You want to believe in the value of one person and that such effort would be made to rescue the one. A side of me kind of wishes it was a true story especially when the Chinese get involved.  Wouldn’t it be great if we were all rooting for the same humans?

With Gravity there is a sense of relief when she is free from danger but it’s the kind of relief that you get at the end of a thriller.  The bad guy (outer space) is defeated and the character can breath.  The Martian is a triumph of human being over insane odds so it has more a tone of a Rocky movie or a sports movie with the underdog finishing victorious!

martian3It’s a cliche but I literally was on the edge of my seat.  I was leaning as close to the screen as I could get I was so anxious for everything to work out.  I couldn’t have been more absorbed in the film.  And just as in the book each victory for Mark makes you smile.  It’s so satisfying!!

As far as content it is on a whole pretty tame.  There are 4 F words and a few other profanities.  You do see Matt Damon’s butt in a scene and he does surgery on himself that is bloody.  That’s it.  I have to say I would feel comfortable taking mature kids and teens to The Martian.  It actually could inspire kids to see so many creative uses for science and math used by a variety of different personalities.

I loved The Martian in both book and movie form.  I recommend reading the book first and then seeing the movie if you can.  I did not see it in 3D or on Imax but I am sure it is cool in those formats.

Definitely my favorite live action film of the year.  Go see it!

Overall Grade- A+ Content Grade – B-

Here’s my youtube review.

The Visit Review

the visitYesterday was a very sad day for me at the movies.  I was going to see the Iron Giant special release and went to the Draper theater instead of The District and by the time I noticed it  I was too late to make the film. 🙁

I had my popcorn and icee in tow and not wanting to just leave I decided to go see The Visit. My brother really liked it as well as some friends and I have been trying to expand my movie comfort zone a little bit with a few more scary movies.  So I guess take this review with a grain of salt because it after all wasn’t Iron Giant…wa, wa, wa.

So what did I think of The Visit?

Well, I thought it was a thoroughly generic predictable horror movie.  I am not the most versed in the genre but I could predict everything that was going to happen.  And of course because it is M Night Shyamalan we get a big twisteroo that was  so obvious even for him.  So no I wasn’t really a fan.

There are some good things about it.  First, the performances are all fine.  Most of Shyamalan’s movies have fine performances.  The two kids are particularly good with Olivia DeJonge as Rebecca and Ed Oxenbound (from Alexander Terrible Day).

the visit4The Visit is also much tighter than the typical Shyamalan film.  There are no speeches and philosophizing and thank goodness he doesn’t cast himself in the movie (I’m talking to you Lady in the Water).   This may be Shyamalan’s tightest film with really no dead time where the story isn’t moving along.

But just because something is better than garbage doesn’t mean it is good.  I’d rather watch the transformers movies than watch most of Shyamalan’s films and that’s saying something.  I’d sit through Nut Job, Legends of Oz and Hero of Color City before watching The Last Airbender or After Earth again (those were the 3 worst animated films of 2014).

I feel like a lot of people are giving The Visit a pass because it isn’t as bad as The Village or The Happening.  I’d agree with them but if it was Johnny Movie Man making the film I think 90% of critics would be giving it a lower score as a generic predictable horror film.  I mean is it really as good as The Conjuring or something like that?

the visit3I don’t want to give any spoilers away but basically the film is about 2 kids that go for a visit to see their grandparents.  Their mother is estranged from them but they want to see the grandkids.  She sends them off without showing them a picture.  Don’t you think a mother who is estranged from her parents would want to show the kids a picture of the parents?  Especially if they are getting on a train and having to meet strangers?  I found that highly improbable.  And if things were so bad between mother and parents with no pictures or physical contact wouldn’t she have them watched out for by a friend of hers from high school or something like that?  It all seemed hard to believe.

But fine accept that the Grandparents seem lovable at first but then weird stuff starts happening and at first they discount it as old people stuff, but it keeps building to a point where they really should be asking more questions and seeking help.  We also find out where the Grandparents volunteer each week, which I won’t give  away because it gives away a lot.

the visit6The thing with most horror movies is that characters get signs to leave or get out of the house and then they make the wrong decision every time.  This movie is no different.  The ending is tense but the kids had so many opportunities to leave and they keep going back for another interview or another discussion that it defies credulity even for children.

the visit5The other bone I have to pick with this film is it is shot in found footage style which is annoying but also makes no sense to the story.  There is no way the Grandparent characters would allow the filming to take place or participate in it.  It doesn’t make sense with their characters or personality traits in every other way in the film.  The found footage also causes a lot of telling rather than showing and it just makes the whole movie seem so unbelievable. I understand they shoot films this way because it is cheap but it comes off looking just that and again it doesn’t work with the characters and story we are being told.  It would have been so much better if it  had been shot like a regular film.  I haven’t been a fan of Shyamalan’s films but he usually shoots them adequately.

So that’s why in the end the movie felt really stupid to me. The characters behaved in nonsensical or stupid ways and the story didn’t really make sense or was completely obvious so not very scary (and I get scared pretty easily).

the visit2Like I said, I really feel like people are giving this a pass because it isn’t as bad as Shyamalan’s other films but is it really good?  I guess if you like generic predictable horror movies than this is for you.  As for me I thought it was lame but then again I was expecting to see Iron Giant so take it for what it’s worth. Sigh…

If you want to be scared I think The Gift is much better.  It is still creeping me out when I think about it.  It’s way more realistic, surprising and scary with really good performances.

Overall Grade- C- for the good performances and tightness of story.

War Room and Walk in the Woods Reviews

So my sister is in town so a little tight on time.  Just doing 2 video reviews this week instead of written and video.  I promise this will be the exception rather than the rule.  This week I saw the Christian film War Room and the old people buddy movie Walk in the Woods.

Basically War Room is only for believers.  I liked it didn’t atheist shame and until the end kept the issues small, every day problems.  I also liked the concept of the War Room and am already thinking about applying it in my life.  That said, aside from the lead performance the acting was weak particularly the child actors who I think were only gotten for their jump roping skills.  It is also way too long and it kind of treats faith and prayer like a super power which I had issues with.  Still, I’m glad I saw it.

Walk in the Woods is based on the Bill Bryson memoir, which I have read.  It keeps the saucy nature of the book and I think that will turn off some viewers who are expecting a pure feel-good film.  It also has a lot of sitcomy moments some won’t like but I enjoyed it.  It’s the kind of charming movie about friendship and pushing yourself I’m a pushover for.

I did forget to mention in the review that Emma Thompson is great in her scenes but Mary Steenburgen is completely wasted in a part that did not need an Oscar winning actress to fill.  But the movie looks beautiful and I liked the 2 leads.  Like I said, in the end I was charmed by it.

The Man from UNCLE Review

UNCLE

Let’s start out this review by saying I am not a Guy Ritchie fan. Why? Well, simply put I don’t like the way he directs action in a movie.  I hated the way he turned Sherlock Holmes into a bullet dodging, explosion jumping action hero in his Sherlock Holmes movies and I really didn’t like the action in his latest film The Man from U.N.C.L.E.  He uses lots of shaky cam, whip pans, split screens (sometimes 5 or 6 splits) and jerky cuts with extreme closeups like on someone’s eye or cheek in the middle of an action scene! All of that I hate.

That said, I liked The Man from UNCLE.  It’s not going to be a favorite of mine but it almost worked in spite of Guy Ritchie not because of him.  Ignoring the action, I had a fun time with the movie.

The Man from UNCLE is based on a British TV show from the 60s that evidently was an homage to 007 and James Bond style films.  Henry Cavill rescues this movie with tons of charisma and charm as secret agent Napoleon Solo. He reminded me of Cary Grant or Clark Gable.  That old movie star kind of persona you need for this kind of part.

guy ritchie set in rome with henry cavillHe has good chemistry with Armie Hammer who cheesy Russian accent and all he makes it work as agent Illya Kuryakin.

UNCLE2

UNCLE4
The two must work together with Alicia Vikander (who overnight is in every movie and is always great) to get her father’s computer disk for a nuclear weapon from an Italian crime donnette played by Elizabeth Debicki (who makes an icy vileness.) It is kind of funny in this movie you have a Brit playing an American.  An American playing a Russian.  A Swede playing a German and an Australian playing an Italian!  Oh well!

UNCLE7Hugh Grant also shows up in about 3 scenes and I wish we had gotten more of him.  If they do a sequel I hope they make him a bigger character.

UNCLE5

The plot is pretty silly and a lot of realizations and twists don’t make sense but I didn’t mind that for this type of spy movie. It’s incredibly stylish with great clothes and pithy dialogue and one liners. That all worked.  The tone can be a little uneven at times and again I blame Guy Ritchie for that.  He stays in scenes too long to a point where it becomes uncomfortable.  For example, several scenes Armie Hammer’s character gets very angry and the scenes go on very long and it causes him to lose his bubbly charisma he has in other scenes.

It could have been easily 20 minutes shorter and been much better but I loved seeing the foreign settings especially Rome and the actors were generally very likable and entertaining that it worked for me.

UNCLE3This is the kind of movie if you see it is on cable give it a watch.  In fact, it might be better that way because the shaky cam and jerky editing of the action scenes works better on a small screen.  It at least is an action movie which doesn’t try to explain everything and just kind of moves from one set piece to another.  You get the feeling it is in on the joke and the camp factor of the film.

If you hated Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes like I did you will definitely see some of the same techniques and it is nauseating and annoying here too but at least suits the project a little bit better.  Plus, the plot doesn’t verge into the supernatural or other eye rolling escapes like in Holmes movies (and no slow motion dodging bullets that they must have done 30 times in the last SH movie).

Perhaps fans of the original show will be annoyed (I’m a massive Sherlock Holmes fan) by his style on their franchise, but as I had never heard of the show it didn’t bother me.  Over all, I had a good time watching this movie despite the terrible action and directing choices.

Overall Grade- C

As far as content it keeps the language to a minimum and the action is so choppy I don’t think it is very upsetting.  There is implied sex but nothing is shown and characters are shot and tortured for a fairly long sequence.

Content Grade- B

Mission Impossible Rogue Nation Review

mi-2

Growing up my family and I really enjoyed watching the old Mission Impossible TV show.  They were so clever with the cases and we loved the team dynamic to their problem solving.  When the first Mission Impossible movie came out I was kind of let down because although it looked nice I didn’t think it had that team feel.  It was just the Tom Cruise show.   Fortunately since the 3rd in the series the team dynamic has returned and the series has gotten better with 3 and 4.  I don’t think the new entry Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is quite as good as Ghost Protocol (MI4) but it is an entertaining time at the movies.

I ran out of time today so here is the rest of my thoughts on the movie on my youtube video.  I think you guys will really enjoy this film.

Perils of Original Ideas

original2Often in the world of movie fandom you will hear complaints about Hollywood’s lack of originality.  That all we get are sequels, prequels, remakes and reboots.  I include myself in that number.  If it isn’t a direct remake it is an adaptation of a popular book or a close copy of a popular franchise.  It seems like it is pretty rare that something truly original comes along. Or so the argument typically starts out.

But wait, lately I’ve been wondering if that is actually the case?  This year we have seen original ideas in Tomorrowland, Chappie, Jupiter Ascending, Strange Magic, Pixels and of course Inside Out (as well as I’m sure others I am overlooking).  Last  year we had Snowpiercer, Grand Budapest Hotel, Locke, Song of the Sea and more.  Come to think of it last year was actually a pretty good year for original stories.

What’s the problem then?  Well, most of those movies didn’t do very well at the box office and had often be hunted down rather than the big name sequels, and reboots which are so prominently marketed.  Obviously something like Pixels, Tomorrowland and Inside Out get a lot of marketing but it does seem to me the tried and true franchises are more shoved in our face than the original ideas (Amazing Spiderman 2 great example of that kind of obnoxious marketing).

Franchises can also have original ideas.  Christopher Nolan has certainly proven that with his Dark Knight saga.

But I was thinking about particularly this year.  Aside from Inside Out we’ve seen original concept films tank at box office and with critics. I had fun with Jupiter Ascending but it isn’t a good movie. I just watched Chappie and it was terrible.  Tomorrowland was a disappointment.  We will see how Pixels does but I don’t anticipate great numbers   George Lucas’ Strange Magic came and went with few people seeing it, making only 12.5 mil at box office.

So what’s the problem?  Why aren’t audiences flocking to see these original ideas but showing up in droves to see Jurassic World? This year I think it is simply the original movies haven’t been that good.  If Tomorrowland had been great it would have gotten tons of buzz and people would have gone to see it.  Most were disappointed including myself and I’m certainly not going to give something a pass just because it is original.

The problem with Jupiter Ascending is it was trying to be a soap opera (or space opera) and was very campy and silly but it also has too much exposition and is full of dopey ‘so bad it’s good’ style dialogue.  The filmmakers didn’t even seem to have a handle on the type of movie it was premiering it at Sundance of all places.  That is not the right spot for a silly space opera.  So it got booed at Sundance and the bad word spread till it did very poorly.

A lot of these original concepts are also difficult to market because they don’t have the established characters or worlds we know.  Something like Mad Max Fury Road is in many ways an original movie but it had the benefits of a franchise that while many hadn’t seen the originals they recognized all the tropes and style of what a Mad Max film is.  Tomorrowland in particular was very tough to market.  Is it an AI movie?  Is it sci-fi?  Is it fantasy?  A comedy? A coming of age story?  An action movie?  It’s kind of all of it but none of it completely.

Chappie didn’t work because it has some of the most obnoxious characters I’ve seen on screen in a long time.  Pixels and Strange Magic had good ideas but the scripts were so lazy and characters so stupid.

Could it be that original concepts can be too caught up with their concept and forget to craft a compelling script?  With a franchise you already have a framework to help you write said script and an eye for what works with the audience.  In an original feature film you are throwing concepts out to see what sticks.  You don’t know how the audience will respond because it is original so the pass fail ratio is naturally going to be higher. That’s why Hollywood loves franchises.  They are safe and fairly predictable.

But then you have an Inside Out or The Artist- original concepts that people enjoy and tell their friends about.  I still want to take anyone and everyone to see Inside Out.  It inspired me so much with the original story and writing.  So brilliant.

Maybe Pixar does it right spacing out their sequels with original movies in between?  This gives a mixture of the predictable for both us and them and the new exciting risky concepts.

What do you think about original movies vs reboots, remakes and sequels?  Why do you think at least this year so many original conepts have not worked (at least at the box office)? What’s the key to making an original movie a success both in content and at box office?

Regardless of the reason I hope the studios take heart from success stories like Ex-Machina and Inside Out and continue carving out room for new ideas.  I hope they keep taking risks even if a lot of them don’t pay off critically or monetarily.  Let’s hope!

Pixels Review

pixels10You like that poster?  Well, my friends in the new movie Pixels there is no Pacman the size of a city, no Golden Gate Bridge and no San Francisco.  No West Coast at all in fact.  The poster looks like an exciting concept but sadly that’s not the movie we got.  And in many ways that is emblematic of Pixels as a movie.  It’s not really satisfying on any level.

That said, if you like Adam Sandler and were one of the cinemagoers that contributed to the $247 million gross box office that was Grown Ups, you will love Pixels.  It isn’t as bad as That’s My Boy or Grown Ups, or Jack and Jill.  It’s watchable. If you like Adam Sandler’s schtick there were a few laughs.  Something I can’t say for those other films I mentioned.  At least Pixels does not have a vomit, urine or other bodily function joke.  Great job Adam Sandler!  (Have you got the idea I’m not a big Adam Sandler fan).

It’s a shame really because Pixels could have been the next Ghostbusters.  It’s directed by Chris Columbus and he gives it an 80s sensibility with the music and some of the early scenes feel authentic to movies of that era.  Just like with Ghostbusters the creatures special effects are pretty well done and you have this tag team of comedians fighting them off.

pixelsThe problem is the writing is so bad.  With Ghostbusters you had 4 eclectic guys who start up a business.  Are actual entrepreneurs which makes them unique and fun to watch.  Plus, the script is dry and funny and each of the 4 guys has his own personality and story arc. All the guys in Pixels are the same and have the same story to tell.  Basically the entire point of the Pixels script is to say to Adam Sandler “you haven’t done anything with your life but that’s ok.  Your lazy manchild skills are really what are going to save the world after all”.  How hilarious.

The first joke of the movie is that Kevin James is supposed to be President of the United States.  This should be the one gamer who did something with his life but he’s a buffoon.  You get no idea of how he could have possibly become president.  In fact, some of the gags at his expense come off as kind of mean. For example, it is a big joke that Kevin James can’t read very well.

Wouldn’t it be more funny to have an actor like Martin Sheen or Michael Douglas (who both can be very good in comedies) be the video gamer at heart but also be a serious President?  Wouldn’t that have way more potential for comedy?  Or put in someone like a Kiefer Sutherland who is super angry and vengeful towards the aliens.  That would have been funny.  Anything other than Kevin James acting like a buffoon as the leader of the free world.

pixels6Anyway, Adam Sandler is James’ old friend who was defeated in the 1982 World Arcade Game Championships.  This left him devastated (who knew coming in second was such a horrible thing at a WORLD championship).  Anyway, NASA at the championship sends off a time capsule with clips of the video games and other pop culture relics from 1982 in hopes of it reaching extra-terrestrial life.

pixels5The problem is that capsule is seen as a declaration of war and so the aliens come down as those video game creatures and attack America.  There are tons of plotholes throughout this whole scenario.  Like when Pacman and Centipede come down there are specific rules that are the same for the game and yet later on it is just a barrage of video game characters who evidently have no rules?  Also why would the aliens know about cheat codes?  And why would they design into their attack a way to defeat the game and destroy their complete existence? And wouldn’t it make more sense to have the aliens create their own characters? Why would you invade a race with the exact things that they are using in their ‘declaration of war’?  Because this movie is stupid that’s why…

All this would be fine if it was funny (Gozer in Ghostbusters isn’t exactly a great villain either) but aside from a few chuckles it just didn’t make me laugh.  Josh Gad who I normally love is especially annoying in this.  He literally screams every time he is on screen.  I wanted to yell- “channel your inner Olaf.  That was funny!”

pixels2Peter Dinklage is alright in it but he has a strange accent that wanders in and out.  His character is inconsistent and not very well written but he tries.  He gave me a few laughs.

The other thing with Ghostbusters is in that movie you had a lot of factors against the team.  In this you have a grumpy Brian Cox who is listed as “a military heavyweight” in the cast list and he doesn’t like these civilians butting in with his team.  Gad is even allowed to scream at the seals for an extended unfunny scene that added nothing to the story. It makes no sense for Cox to be hating on the team especially after they have defeated Centipede and Pacman. I guess he wanted the world destroyed?

Sean Bean appears for a gag Sandler loves of 2 men hugging in fear.  It’s 2015 is that still funny having 2 men awkwardly hugging?  The women are also completely wasted.  Michelle Monaghan is gorgeous and a  lieutenant colonel in the army but her main job is to invent things for Sandler and then direct them from a screening room.  She also gets dumped for a woman named Sinnamon (with an S as pointed out several times) and is seen drinking chardonnay with a sippy cup even though her son is at least 10. I’m nitpicking there but they totally underuse her.

Jane Krakowski who can be so funny is in 2 scenes of the movie and one of them she is decorating a cake with the her husband the President in the middle of a war and in another they are at a party also thrown in the middle of wartime.  Ashley Benson is literally a trophy given to one of the men for their victory (when I say literally I mean literally).

pixels3All of that said, the special effects do look kind of cool and I did chuckle a couple times.  I can’t say that about all Adam Sandler movies.  In fact, this is probably one of the best he’s done since the 90s…

pixels8Little kids might like it.  There’s a little mild language but that’s about it as far as offensive content.  But will kids get the appeal of the 80s arcade games? So I don’t know who this movie is made for?

Like I said, if you like Adam Sandler movies and think some of his comedies of the last 10 years have been funny than you will probably love this.  It’s just not my cup of tea but I can see its appeal to others.  Hopefully that gives you some idea of what to expect.

Overall Grade- D+ (for special effects and I feel like at least Adam Sandler tried so I won’t give him an F).

My youtube review on this one. I must say I think my thumbnail on this turned out really good! 🙂

Mr Holmes Review

mr holmesToday I had the day off of work and before I drove up to Bear Lake for a race tomorrow I decided to see the new movie Mr Holmes.  If some of you have been reading for a while you might remember in my Great Mouse Detective review talking about my family’s love for Sherlock Holmes.  We love all the versions except Robert Downy and we talk about it seemingly without end.  So you can imagine my excitement when I saw a new movie was coming up about an older Holmes starring the great Ian McKellen.

Mr Holmes is definitely a mixed bag for me but the good parts are very good.  To begin with Ian McKellen is wonderful as Holmes.  He manages to pull off a wide range of ages and feel authentic and real in all of them.  He’s a little different than our typical Holmes.  In this world Watson has embellished him quite a bit (he’s never worn a bowler hat and doesn’t smoke a pipe for instance).  This Holmes is less bombastic.  He is thoughtful and quiet and seems more mentally stable.

mr holmes3At the beginning he has returned from a trip from Japan and is at his home which is a honeybee farm.  Laura Linney plays his beleaguered housekeeper trying to raise her son Roger who is a sweet inquisitive kid who is comfortable making friends with adults. He has an interest in honeybees and so Holmes and him strike a bond with each other.  He also loves Holmes’ writing and encourages to write a story about his last case.  This is difficult because his memory is leaving him more each day.  He can’t even remember why he went to Japan but we do get bits of that through the story.

You end up with a lot of storylines.  There’s the storyline of Holmes and the boy, of his last case, of Linney and moving to Porstmouth, and Holmes’ trip to Japan.  Director Bill Condon takes a huge step up from Twilight but it is a very leisurely paced movie and a few of the sideplots aren’t as compelling as others. I am sure that many, less patient viewers, will find this to be boring.  I didn’t but I can see that.  (There was a man at my theater snoring very loudly!).

mr holmes 6I hate to say it but a big problem with this movie is Laura Linney isn’t very good.  She’s flat, unemotive, wooden and her accent isn’t convincing at all.  She’s someone who I normally think of as such a great actress but I was looking at her imdb and it is actually a while since she gave a great performance.  There was the Big C on TV which I hated and then the great John Adams miniseries in 2008, but for movies I have to go back to 2007’s Breach to find a movie of hers I like.  It’s so strange.  I wonder why this has happened because she definitely has the acting chops and yet has been in an 8 year slump.  It’s not good.  It’s funny how certain actors can maintain a reputation but when you look at it they’ve been in a lot of turkeys.

Regardless of her career, she isn’t good in Mr Holmes.  She doesn’t create a convincing character and that is made all the more apparent by the comparison to McKellen who is so great in the movie.  I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he gets nominated for an Oscar for this performances.  He’s subtle and funny and believable in the part. He’s the reason to see the movie and makes it a fun experience.

mr holmes4I really liked the story of his last case and putting the pieces together.  It had an emotional heft to it without verging into melodrama.  I don’t want to give anything away but Hattie Morahan who plays the female in the old case is very good.  She doesn’t say much but her expressions are very haunting.  (I also learned what a glass armonica was from this movie.  Had never heard of that weird instrument).

The cinematography by Tobias A Schliessler was really nice . You couldn’t blame Holmes for retreating with his bees to such a beautiful place.  It also captures Japan in 1947 fresh from the war very well.

Unfortunately the ending is a bit heavy-handed and there is a lot of telling rather than showing but still McKellen is so strong it is entertaining.  It is far from a perfect but I enjoyed it.  I think if you go you will like it too- especially if you are a big Sherlock Holmes fan like I am.  It’s worth going just to see a great actor in an iconic role.  If any of you see it I would be curious for your thoughts.

Overall Grade- C+

Minions Review

minionI got to see the Minions movie tonight. I went into this movie actually pretty excited.  I am not the biggest fan of the Despicable Me movies.  I think they are just ok, but the thing I like about them most is the minions characters.  They are really funny with their language and love of bananas.  There is something adorable about them.  They even like selfies on occasion…

minions9And little kids love the minions.  I’ve seen it with my 5 nieces.  They crack up and get a huge smile on their faces whenever they see the minions.  But it is always tricky when a sidekick gets their own movie (think Elektra…) especially sidekicks that don’t speak English.  How was this going to work?

Then the first trailer came out and it looked really cute.  It is actually the first 5 minutes or so of the movie in that first trailer and it is the best part of the movie IMO.  We get the history of the minions starting with amoeba cells and then through all time periods looking for a master to serve.  This takes us to 1968 and 3 of the minions decide to go out and look for their leader before they all perish from boredom.  They are Bob, Kevin and Stuart which for some reason makes me laugh.  It just seems like funny names for these minions.

minions6They then travel great distances and there are some cute gags but nothing that wasn’t shown in a trailer and that made me laugh out loud.  The best scene is probably when Stuart wants to eat Kevin and Bob because he thinks they are bananas but again that is in the trailer so you don’t need to pay the big bucks to see that. Eventually they make it to New York where we start to get material from the second trailer.  This trailer had me nervous.  It looked like a lot of adult ‘wink-wink’ humor which I really hate. Like do we really need to see Stuart in a thong and having a threesome joke?  I certainly don’t.

minions2But luckily there isn’t that much of those jokes so my fears were mostly ill founded.  Besides, pretty much all the adult humor jokes are in the trailer including a scene where they are tortured which was strange and hung in a noose. Do we really need that in our kids comedy?  These scenes were awkward instead of funny.

minions7 minions8The minions eventually go to Villain-con which was a fun sequence and they meet Scarlet Overkill voiced by Sandra Bullock.  Her character had potential but they didn’t do much with her.   I think they needed a vocal performance with a little more sauce to it like someone Russian or with an exotic accent.  Bullock ends up feeling flat as Scarlet but it isn’t really her fault because she doesn’t have much to do.  Her boyfriend is voiced by John Hamm who is actually a little bit funnier than Scarlet.

minions5The one thing I did like is Scarlet wants to be a princess and be treated like royalty.  She already has the money so I thought that was kind of clever to have a female villain who still wants to be pretty and a princess.  Usually the villain hates princesses. I also liked she wanted her hair cut like a drawing of her as a princess she did when she was a child.  That made me laugh.

minions4So she equips the trio of minions to steal the crown from Queen Elizabeth.  The rest of the movie is then spent in England and at one point Bob becomes King of England which was funny.

minions3 I think small kids who already love the minions will enjoy this movie.  It is definitely better than say a Home or Strange Magic.  That said, I never really laughed like I did for Penguins of Madagascar last year which was very funny and had great vocal performances.  It also makes me realize how clever Mr Peabody and Sherman was because that had a thin premise but the jokes were so good I laughed a lot.  Both those movies are much better than Minions.

A friend of mine asked me if she should still see and I said yes.  It’s fine but just know it is made for little kids without a ton of grown up appeal.  But then it has those adult moments which are unfortunate. However, it does look nice and is bright and colorful and the beginning 20 minutes is a lot of fun. It’s when they get to England that things really fall apart.

In the end I left Minions thinking ‘that was cute but I didn’t laugh’, and I think many of you will feel the same way. I also might have laughed more if everything hadn’t been in the trailers.  But like I said it’s cute, there are a couple jokes that work but there are sections where I got a little bit bored because I wasn’t laughing.

Kids will like it but probably forget about it rather quickly.  If you have a $1 theater by you wait till then to take the kids.  It’s worth a $1.  $10 I don’t think so.

If you like 1960’s classic rock you will enjoy the soundtrack with songs from The Who, Beatles, Kinks and many other bands.  They must have spent a fortune on all the songs so that is cool.

I will say the people in front of me were laughing hysterically so maybe I missed something? Or they were on something?  Not sure…

Overall Grade- C-

Any of you see it?  What did you think?

My youtube review