Film Review: “Baby Driver”

Starring: Ansel Elgort, Lily James and Kevin Spacey
Directed By: Edgar Wright
Rated: R
Running Time: 113 minutes
TriStar Pictures

Disney may be kicking themselves in the head over letting Edgar Wright leave “Ant Man” back in 2014. The English director has demonstrated a unique, original vision for all of his projects, from “Shaun of the Dead” to “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.” His latest film, “Baby Driver” demonstrates that same unflinching ability to seamlessly blend various genres and styles into a cohesive marvel that dances, shoots and speeds to its own infectious beat.

Baby (Elgort) is the centerpiece of Doc’s (Spacey) bank heist team. While he never has the same crew work twice, Baby is always the getaway driver. With earbuds always in, and a different Ipod on play for different moods and days, Baby maps out an escape route while flawlessly bolting from fleets of cops, improving a multitude of techniques. While the getaways are short, they’re some of the best filmed car chases in recent memory. Baby is handcuffed to Doc because of an incident years prior. Baby was stealing Doc’s car, with plenty of valuables in the trunk, and as Doc puts it, “I didn’t stop him because I couldn’t believe the balls on the kid.” So while getting the tiniest of cuts from the haul, Baby is slowing paying Doc back for his crimes.

Other heist crew members are weary of the silent Baby, with one even asking if he’s slow. But as Doc points out, he gets the job done and is tapped into every heist that Doc plots out despite being tuned out and thumping his foot to music. But the reason Baby is always listening to music, is to drown out permanent tinnitus. He was back seat, at a young age, to a fatal wreck that took the life of his mom and her abusive spouse. It not only elicits sympathy from the audience, but gives viewers an excuse to bask in one of the best movie soundtracks of the year.

Clocking in at nearly two hours, “Baby Driver” is never dull and rarely lets its foot off the gas, bringing audiences along for a thrilling experience that combines Grindhouse car chases and a stylistic genre mish mash. The selective soundtrack orchestrates the action, the passion and the emotions throughout, almost like a wall of sound that matches its relentless visuals. The “Fast and Furious” franchise could only wish to attain such high-octane action bliss.

“Baby Driver” almost risks becoming more style than substance, if it isn’t for Baby’s relatability and his heartthrob, Debora (James), a diner waitress looking for the right person to take her down the road trip called life. Her introduction also creates some third act stakes that more or less work when a heist goes awry and the established morals of our title character take control of the wheel. Even amongst the smashing and shooting, “Baby Driver” finds fleeting moments of youthful wanderlust and succinct punch lines and jokes.

“Baby Driver” is a must-see summer movie with its iPod shuffle on NOS and metal crunching adrenaline. It’d be hard to find a person who doesn’t want to sit in the driver’s seat of this movie and enjoy its exceptionable ride. Here’s to hoping Wright has a few more ideas in that head of his that are just as memorable and rewatchable as “Baby Driver.” He’s certainly solidified himself in the mainstream as a visionary director. Sorry Disney, I don’t think you can have him back.

Film Review: “47 Meters Down”

Starring: Mandy Moore, Claire Holt and Matthew Modine
Directed by: Johannes Roberts
Rated: PG-13
Running time: 1 hr 29 mins
Entertainment Studios

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

If you’ve EVER read any of my work over a short period of time you probably know that my favorite film of all time, bar none, is “Jaws.” A great film with so many different layers that people often look past everything but the shark. So when I see in a television commercial that a film critic has called “47 Meters Down” “…the best shark movie since JAWS,” I have to shake my head. First off, if all “Jaws” is to you is a SHARK movie…you shouldn’t be reviewing films. The shark is only part of the film. That would be like me calling the last “Pirates of the Caribbean” film, “…the best movie about people on a boat since JAWS.” That being said, “47 Meters Down” is not too bad.

We meet Lisa (Moore) and her sister, Kate (Holt) as they arrive in beautiful, sunny Mexico for a planned vacation. While Kate is bubbly and ready for adventure, Lisa is just the opposite. She finally confesses that her boyfriend has left her and she’s unsure how to handle the rejection. Unfazed, Kate convinces Lisa to head out to the clubs, where they meet two young men. Soon the foursome agree to meet up at the local dock to go out in the ocean and observe sharks while protected by a steel cage. Though she has never scuba dived before, Lisa fakes her way past the boat’s captain (Modine) and soon the two find themselves dangling over the side. As they are lowered into the water they find themselves surrounded by a couple of good sized Great White Sharks. Luckily the cable holding the cage has been checked and inspected for quality and strength. Right?

A Nyctophobian Thriller (let’s see them use THAT in an ad…it means “fear of the dark”), “47 Meters Down is blessed with mostly solid performances and very impressive CGI effects that gives the viewer a pretty good idea what it must be like to be 150 feet underwater surrounded by sharks. Big ones, though, sadly, not the 21 to 28 footers that Skipper Modine swears he constantly sees on his adventures. Which is pretty damn good, considering the largest one ever on record has been right along 20 feet long. By comparison, the shark in JAWS was 25 feet long.

The performances are pretty strong, especially from the two actresses. They help build the tension long after the audience should have been bored. One complaint is with New England-born actor Chris Johnson, who plays Modine’s assistant, Javier. Mr. Johnson must have watched a lot of “Chico and the Man” growing up because, like the late, great Freddie Prinze, he pronounces certain words with a hard CH sound, i.e. “Here comes a CHark!”

Shark wise the film is well done. The computer sharks move smoothly and there is no “super-shark” that shows up like in last summer’s disappointing “The Shallows.” Credit director Roberts for keeping the action going, making up for an almost disappointing ending.

Film Review: “Rough Night”

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon and Zoe Kravitz
Directed By: Lucia Aniello
Rated: R
Running Time: 101 minutes
Columbia Pictures

Our Score: 3 out of 5 Stars

I’m reminded of “Bad Moms” as I reflect on “Rough Night” because it appears the raunchy comedy playing field is beginning to even out. For every Seth Rogen vehicle there appears to be a female ensemble dropping four letter words and talking about their menstrual cycle like men talk about their farts and ejaculations. While it’s good to see things equalizing, I can’t help, but also think about “Bridesmaids” or “Trainwreck” and wonder why they all can’t be on that same level.

The set-up is simple; Alice (Jillian Bell) is setting up the bachelorette party for her best friend Jess (Johansson). Joining them on this girl’s only weekend is their other friends from college, Frankie (Ilana Glazer) and Blair (Kravitz), and Jess’ new friend, Pippa (McKinnon). After a night of pot smoking, drug experimentation, and over-priced Miami bar drinks, they retreat to the safety of their getaway pad. That’s where they order a stripper and in an accidental heated moment, kill him. I swear the premise is slightly funnier than fortuitous murder.

The main gags come from their misguided attempts at concealing the crime scene, disposing of the body, and the brief cuts to the bachelor party that Jess’ fiance, Peter (Paul W. Downs), is attending. The brief glimpses of the bachelor party, and its ensuing insanity, are the first of many instances where “Rough Night” pokes fun at role reversals. While Jess and her gang do bumps of cocaine while talking about scoring tail, Peter and his crew sample fine wines and talk about their emotions. These moments of subtlety are actually some of the film’s best moments.

Other times the movie falls into a predictable coma, finding it relying on ill-fitting and unfunny jokes and double entendres worthy of a bad Adam Sandler film. However, “Rough Night” moves at such a frenetic pace, there’s very little time to ponder those moments. It also helps that up-and-comers, Glazer, McKinnon and Bell, feast on the scenery while Johansson and Kravitz do fine trying their hand at comedy.

“Rough Night” is more or less the female version of movies like “The Hangover,” which isn’t a bad thing, but it lacks creative originality. Glazer and director Lucia Aniello work on the TV show “Broad City,” combining absurdist comedy and life in New York City. While there is flirtation with genuine human emotion and female camaraderie, it doesn’t package it as neatly as a 22-minute TV show. Hopefully “Rough Night” is a stepping stone to bigger and better movies.

Film Review “Cars 3”

Directed by: Brian Fee
Starring: Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonzo, Armie Hammer, Larry the Cable Guy, Nathan Fillion, Kerry Washington, Lea DeLaria, Cheech Marin, Michael Wallis, Paul Dooley
Distributed by: Walt Disney Studios
MPAA Rating: PG
Running time: 109 minutes

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

After the second disaster of a film, the “Cars” franchise should have come to an end. The thing is that the “Cars” brand brings in billions in merchandise alone, so Disney is stupid not to keep the brand in people’s heads. Personally, I have never been a fan of either of the two previous films. The first was good, don’t get me wrong but it’s not a favorite when I think of great Pixar films. “Cars 3”, luckily, was better than the second that’s for sure. The film has more heart like the first but unfortunately doesn’t deliver much till the end. Newcomer character, Cruz Ramierz definitely steals the show.

Official Premise: Blindsided by a new generation of blazing-fast racers, the legendary Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) is suddenly pushed out of the sport he loves. To get back in the game, he will need the help of an eager young race technician, Cruz Ramirez (voice of Cristela Alonzo), with her own plan to win, plus inspiration from the late Fabulous Hudson Hornet and a few unexpected turns. Proving that #95 isn’t through yet will test the heart of a champion on Piston Cup Racing’s biggest stage!

Before I saw this I was quick to say at least Mater looks like he is not even in this film but what’s funny after seeing it is his scenes I actually enjoyed and added the only real comedic relief. He still was only in the film for a very short time. I took my five year old to see this and honestly, she was bored out of her mind and gave it a big thumbs down. I liked it a little more because of the heart that the film tried to replicate from the first film. I appreciated that and I know others will as well.

Keeping in line with the previous films, Pixar didn’t disappoint. The visuals were impressive and the colors were beautiful, no question. The 3D, I felt was rather useless. I don’t recall being wowed by anything. Obviously, I doubt we have seen the end of this franchise. I did like the way it was ended in particular and could lead it down an interesting path, but overall I just left the theatre like my kid feeling kinda blah, didn’t hate it just didn’t really love it.

Film Review: “It Comes at Night”

Starring: Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott and Carmen Ejogo
Directed By: Trey Edward Shults
Rated: R
Running Time: 97 minutes
A24

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

There are a few things that always seem to get lost in the shuffle when an apocalyptic end of the world movie is created; paranoia, hopelessness and brutally honest human emotion. Most of the time in this genre, we’re meant to jump in our seats, watch a subtle reflection of the current political climate or enjoy watching Earth devolve into a sadist’s playground. “It Comes at Night” appears to start out with one of those intentions, but as it unwinds; the movie captures the very essence of humanity’s last gasp and struggling with death.

Paul (Edgerton) keeps his at his side, having them abide by a strict set of rules. The home, deeply entrenched in the woods, is boarded up and only has one entrance/exit, two locked doors, which Paul has the only key to. Paul struggles in silence to understand his son, Travis (Kelvin Harrison), who has just witnessed his grandfather succumb to the disease that is infesting the world around them. It takes effect within 24 hours, causing the body to develop talon like boils, its host to puke ink-like blood and turn eyeballs into tar pits.

“It Comes at Night” actually begins with the arduous task of putting grandpa out of his misery. Paul has Travis come along, despite his mom questioning whether or not Travis would be ready to watch the tragic deed. As Paul takes grandpa out into the woods, digs a shallow grave, and shoots him, Travis watches in confused silence. Certainly, going through puberty is compounded by watching a loved one slowly morph into some zombie movie monster.

They don’t have long to sulk because a strange man breaks into the home, scrounging for food and water. After an extensive interrogation process by Paul, the family learns that the man, Will (Abbott), is in desperate need of assistance. His wife and child are in a different home, waiting for him to return with any signs of hope. Paul agrees to help and welcomes the family into the home, and while things may be peaceful at first, things slowly unravel.

There isn’t a lot of small-talk or meaningful conversation between characters in “It Comes at Night.” On one hand, it makes sense because there’s no reason that the people in this scenario would be regurgitating the tragic details of what they already know. So very little is learned about the actual happenings outside the world and what kind of pandemic is eating away at the Earth. On the other hand, we don’t get a sense of what characters are truly thinking since they appear to be more obsessed about what the other is plotting or contemplating. The only inner workings we get a glimpse of our Travis’ adolescent mind.

It’s clear through many of Travis’ nightmares, that the death of his grandpa, sexual frustration brought on by puberty and paranoia are creating a lethal mental cocktail. Anytime a problem arises with Will and his clan, Travis is reminded by his parents about how family comes before everyone else. Since the movie spends so much time with Travis, it creates disconnect from nearly everyone else, which can be frustrating at first, but sets up for an intense final act.

There’s no traditional resolution to “It Comes at Night,” which is both a blessing and a curse. It gives the viewer a lot to ponder and discuss, but it also leaves you with no profound message to chew on. It’s unique in its pragmatic presentation of what happens when human beings are left to their own isolationism and the overwhelming distrust that will certainly envelop society during end times. But the biggest takeaway is that we’re all afraid of dying and losing those closest to us. There’s no political or social commentary away to take from that, it’s just a universal truth.

Film Review “The Mummy (2017)”

Directed by: Alex Kurtzman
Starring: Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis, Jake Johnson, Russell Crowe
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Rated: PG-13
Running time: 107 minutes

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

After seeing the first trailer to “The Mummy” starring Tom Cruise, I have to admit, I rolled my eyes a little and said “Oh boy” and I wasn’t sold on a female mummy plays by Sofia Boutella. So going into the movie, my expectations were kinda low but I was hoping to really dig it. Let me tell you from the moment this movie started I was HOOKED, till the moment it ended! I loved it. I thought that it was a perfect start to Universal’s new planned “Dark Universe”, which will feature all the classic monsters. I love the old monster films and they are just begging for an actually good big screen revival. “The Mummy” is a non-stop action packed, scary as hell must see Summer flick! Do not miss this film!

Official Premise: Nick Morton (Cruise) is a soldier of fortune who plunders ancient sites for timeless artifacts and sells them to the highest bidder. When Nick and his partner come under attack in the Middle East, the ensuing battle accidentally unearths Ahmanet (Boutella), a betrayed Egyptian princess who was entombed under the desert for thousands of years. With her powers constantly evolving, Morton must now stop the resurrected monster as she embarks on a furious rampage through the streets of London.

From the trailers, I wasn’t sure if this movie was going to be more action than horror but let me tell you it packed some great scares and was creepy as hell. I was honestly shocked cause it was freaking scary in parts…yet still packed some amazing action scenes. I am sure that till film will be compared to “The Mummy” film series with Brendan Fraser but it is completely different. That series was more like an Indiana Jones copy. This series feels much darker and surprisingly more fun as well.

Big surprises in the cast were Jake Johnson (known better as Nick Miller from TV’s “New Girl” and “Jurassic World”). He steals the show and gives the film a real ode to “An American Werewolf in London”, which I dug a lot! Great addition. Also Russell Crowe, yet again, surprised us all showing up as Dr. Henry Jekyll, which adds so much to the film and plans for future development. He nails the role perfectly and I can’t wait to see more of him in future films in this new “Dark Universe”.

I am sure “real critics” are going to tear this apart but if you are a true genre fan, this is a fantastic kick off to this new shared universe that Universal is creating and real fun/scary film to enjoy this Summer. It also delivered a great lead-in/back story that adds some great mythology to the film as well…and the best part about this film is that the trailer doesn’t give it all away like in other recent films this Summer (talking about you “Alien: Covenant”). So be sure to head to the theaters and have a blast with this one and let’s ensure that Universal has the opportunity to continue their “Dark Universe” but I am dying to see what they come up with next for “Bride of Frankenstein” in 2019.

Film Review: “Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie

Starring the Voices Of: Kevin Hart, Thomas Middleditch and Ed Helms
Directed By: David Soren
Rated: PG
Running Time: 89 minutes
20th Century Fox

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

In 2013, 2012, 2005, 2004 and 2002, the “Captain Underpants” books made the American Library Association’s top 10 challenged books. This is a list usually reserved for “Fifty Shades of Grey,” “The Chocolate War,” “Of Mice and Men” and other well-known books. Ironically, “Captain Underpants” place on the list isn’t for its potty humor, but for its insensitivity and because it supposedly encourages children to disobey authority. For fans of the book, or those who don’t see that as a bad thing, you’ll be happy to know the movie keeps that spirit intact.

“Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie” begins with an introduction to George Beard (Hart) and Harold Hutchins (Middleditch). The two fourth graders love to pull pranks and share a creative disregard for their school principal, Benjamin Krupp (Helms). They’ve rebranded him in their comic book, “Captain Underpants,” as made him the title character. He faces off against foes who are also modeled off of other people at the school like annoying teachers, humorless dorks and evil toilets. But the comic hero comes to life when George uses a 3D hypno ring from a cereal box to escape Krupp’s ire. At the snap of their fingers, the stuffy principal dons the iconic white briefs that stretch above the belly button.

There’s an underlying charm to George and Harold’s antics because of how their friendship is birthed through a mutual love for the arts and immature humor. It’s hard not to root for a duo that pulls pranks after being oppressed for expressing themselves in imaginative and comedic ways. Sure it’s humor that makes a man-child giggle and an elementary school classroom roar with laughter, but it’s counterbalanced by witty subtlety. However, even the most juvenile minds might roll their eyes at some of the low hanging fruit “Captain Underpants” happily plucks.

There is some clever wordplay and sight gags for astute viewers. But the majority of fun is from the student and teacher caricatures populating Jerome Horowitz Elementary. Jordan Peele provides the unsavory voice of a teacher’s pet, Kristen Schaal adds a nasal flair to her trademark high pitch when voicing a bashful lunch lady and Nick Kroll uses a stereotypical German accent to voice the film’s ludicrous villain Professor Poopypants. There’s actually a decent reason why his name is so puerile.

Director David Soren plays with different visual styles and animation throughout to keep the eyes drawn to the screen. While the majority of animation is on par with other animated films, moments with sock puppets and sequences that feel like children’s crayon drawings coming to life add to George and Harold’s unique vision. Soren, however, isn’t able to do much with fight and action sequences in the final act that make it memorable.

For a movie about toilet humor, “Captain Underpants” never resorts to grossing out the audience for a cheap laugh and finds a surprising amount of emotional depth in its characters, even the ones that are the butt of the joke. “Captain Underpants” does spend a little bit too much time indulging in its own sophomoric humor when it could have been fine tuning its style a little bit more or focusing on parodying the superhero genre. But if “Captain Underpants” does want to play with the big boys of DC and Marvel, it certainly has the groundwork laid out.

Film Review: “Wonder Woman”

Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine and Robin Wright
Directed by: Patty Jenkins
Rated: PG-13
Running time: 2 hrs 21 min’s
Warner Bros.

Our Score: 3 out of 5 Stars

Superman. Batman. Out of the literally hundreds of super heroes in the DC Comics Universe (and please, let’s not get into the “Batman isn’t a Superhero” discussion), these two are the only ones that have sustained success on the silver screen. This week, a third hero rises to give Warner Bro’s a trifocal of enjoyable and, for the studio, hopefully profitable film subjects. Say hello to “Wonder Woman.”

Present day. A package is delivered to Diana Prince (Gadot) at Wayne Enterprises. Inside she finds a photo, taken almost a century ago, with a very familiar face starting back at her. Her own.

Journey back now to the time of World War I. On the fog-hidden island of Hems, young Diana (Lilly Aspell) watches with wonder as the woman around here constantly train for a battle they pray to the gods will never come. Diana’s mother, Rhyolite (Connie Nielsen) allows her sister, Antiope (Wright) to train Diana. Cue nice montage scenes of Diana, gradually getting older and soon being able to fight off her attackers. Which reminds me…they always show a knife or sword barely missing its target. Surely there must be some unfortunate people who do NOT narrowly miss death. One day Diana observes a plane crash into the ocean. She finds the wreckage and saves the pilot, Steve Trevor, who luckily looks like Chris Pine. Something tells me if Josh Gad had been playing Trevor the film would have ended much earlier. Steve informs Diana and her friends that there’s a war going on out in the real world and soon they two find themselves in the middle of it.

A little over-padded at an almost two and a half-hour running time, “Wonder Woman” may finally be the Warner Bro’s/DC Comics film that is both fun to watch and full of some exciting action. Gadot, who almost stole last years “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice,” is outstanding here as the Amazon goddess who not only learns about her destiny but that of her people. Pine is equally strong as a true “man’s man” who must learn to not only trust women but finally recognize them as equal. The battle scenes are exciting, though, again, there is a lot of “talking sounds,” scenes that almost seem to be there to ensure a longer running time,– that sometimes takes you out of the moment. But when the moments are right, “Wonder Woman” truly delivers.

Film Review: “Chuck”

Starring: Liev Schreiber, Elisabeth Moss and Jim Gaffigan
Directed by: Philippe Falardeau
Rated: R
Running time: 1 hr 36 mins
IFC Films

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

A couple of weeks ago I came across a scrapbook I put together when I was 14 and living in Cleveland. The big news, apparently, was the opening of the Coliseum in Richfield, Ohio. Elton John was there. Many windows were broken when a riot broke out during Led Zeppelin. And, on March 24, 1975, little-known club fighter Chuck Wepner fought the great Muhammad Ali for the Heavyweight Championship of the World.

“Who cared about me a month ago? Nobody!”

This quote, from the film “Rocky,” opens the new film about Chuck Wepner (Schreiber, absolutely losing himself in the role). Known as the “Bayonne Bleeder,” a nickname the New Jersey native dislikes, Wepner is popular in the ring because he can take a punch. He is so popular that he has been told her will receive a shot at the title once Champion George Foreman defeats Ali in Zaire at the famed “Rumble in the Jungle.” Ali won his belt back in Africa but he decides to give a “white” guy a shot at the title. And that white guy is Chuck Wepner.

If you’ve ever seen Chuck Wepner on a talk show, you know the man is always “on.” Here he is no different. Schreiber plays him with a confidence that’s off the charts. Yet he still manages to exude the sadness inside, which Wepner feels whenever his wife (Moss) or others are disappointed by him. Things begin to look up after the film “Rocky” is released, with Wepner being hailed by the press as “the real Rocky.” He begins to associate himself so much with the film that, the night after “Rocky” took home the Academy Award for Best Picture, he is telling people that “We” won the Oscar. However, things begin to slowly unravel, both in his marriage and his life, giving Wepner one more fight to win.

As mentioned above, Schreiber is outstanding as the title character, but he also has a great supporting cast, including Ron Perlman as trainer Al Braverman, Michael Rappaport as his brother, John, and Pooch Hall as Ali. Wepner even has some interaction with Sylvester Stallone himself, played by Morgan Spector, auditioning for a role in “Rocky II.”

As a final note, I’ll add that Stallone has never said he based Rocky on Wepner. He has said that he saw the Ali/Wepner fight and alluded to it when “Rocky” was released. However, as he continued to make more Rocky films, he distanced himself from the Wepner-inspired story. In 2003, Wepner sued Stallone for basically using his story for financial gain. The case was settled in 2006.

Film Review: “Baywatch”

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron and Alexandra Daddario
Directed by: Seth Gordon
Rated: R
Running time: 1 hr 56 mins
Paramount

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Before I begin I want to tell you a story. I’ve only seen one episode of the “Baywatch” television show. It was at my friend Marty Kircher’s house and I couldn’t believe how someone of his age (late 30’s) could find the show interesting. The part I remember most was a scene with David Hasselhoff climbing on board a boat which had a man tied up in the middle of it. “What the hell is he doing,” I asked, “he’s a damn LIFEGUARD!” As if on cue, the Hoff looks into the camera and says, “I haven’t seen this much C-4 since my time in the Navy Seals.” Marty turns to me and says, “See! He was a NAVY SEAL!” Thankfully the makers of the new “Baywatch” film don’t take their movie as seriously as Marty would.

Mitch Buchannon (Johnson) is the main man on the beach. With summer starting it’s time for Mitch and his fellow lifeguards to pick three young wannabes to learn the ropes. He is surprised when former Olympic swimmer Matt Brody (Efron) shows up and announces he’s now a “part of the team.” Stuck with Matt, Mitch also chooses Summer Quinn (Daddario) and Ronnie Greenbaum (Jon Bass) to complete his trio of newbies. Summer seems to have the skills necessary to save lives. Ronnie…well, Ronnie has heart! And that’s all you need to be a part of “Baywatch!”

Consistently funny with a few slow spots, “Baywatch” thankfully follows the formula that other television-shows-to-movies like “21 Jump Street” have in that it doesn’t take itself TOO seriously. Leading this charge is Johnson, who seems to want to let us know that it’s OK to laugh at things we find funny. And Johnson has fun as well, making fun of the new guard. Brody, who is surely inspired by American Olympian Ryan Locte, has rubbed Mitch wrong and Mitch confirms this by calling Brody pretty much everything BUT his name. One Direction. Bieber. High School Musical. Brody answers to all three and more. Completing the team are Kelly Rohrbach as C.J. and Ilfenish Hadera as Stephanie. Together they must investigate the recent growing of a new drug kingpin without attracting the wrath of the local police, who look upon the lifesaving gang with spite.

Both Johnson and Efron are well cast. I don’t know why but every time Johnson came on screen I began thinking about his character, Maui, from “Moana.” Efron, who reportedly exercised himself down to 5% body fat, plays up the “swimming Bad Boy” character for laughs, though as the film progresses you do begin to feel a little affinity for him. The supporting cast is also funny but I would be remiss if I didn’t give a special shout out to Jon Bass, who steals the film as Ronnie. And if you fans of the television series keep your eyes peeled, you may spot a familiar face or two.

All in all, a fun film you should wait 15 minutes after eating to see!

Film Review “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales”

Directed by: Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg
Starring: Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Kevin McNally, Geoffrey Rush
Distributed by Walt Disney Studios
Release date: May 26, 2017
Running time: 129 minutes

Mike G’s Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Yo-ho, Yo-ho, a pirate’s life for me! Honestly, I expect very little from this latest (and claimed final…yeah, right!) adventure in the series. But “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” is a fun ride. I have been a fan of each of the films in this franchise. They are not perfect by any standards but they are entertaining for sure. Even though everyone loves Captain Jake Sparrow, my favorite part of these films have been the baddies…and in this film Captain Salazar steals the show. I would honestly recommend seeing this film just to watch Javier Bardem’s performance. He is an amazing bad guy. Everything from his flowing hair to his weezing as he speaks is just amazing! Even though claim as a the final adventures, this franchise still has steam left in it and I am on board for sure!

Official Premise: Thrust into an all-new adventure, a down-on-his-luck Capt. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) feels the winds of ill-fortune blowing even more strongly when deadly ghost sailors led by his old nemesis, the evil Capt. Salazar (Javier Bardem), escape from the Devil’s Triangle. Jack’s only hope of survival lies in seeking out the legendary Trident of Poseidon, but to find it, he must forge an uneasy alliance with a brilliant and beautiful astronomer and a headstrong young man in the British navy.

I’ve read some reviews saying that “Dead Men Tell No Tales” tries to tell too much story and no character but I loved the back story that Salazar provides to the franchise and how it ties in with Jack Sparrow’s origin. The worst part of the film is no question the inclusion of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley’s characters. There combined five seconds on screen is surely laughable and worth nothing. Johnny Depp seemed a little tired in the role and just rolling with the punches but people love Jack Sparrow and he delivers some great laughs. There is even a nice little cameo from The Beatles’ Paul McCartney as Sparrow’s Uncle.

The visual effects are solid in this fifth entry. The zombie sharks were a bit of a let down and wasn’t the spectacle that I was hoping for, visually cool but they really didn’t do much. Co-director’s Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg took the film in a good direction and I enjoyed their spin on this franchise. I am curious to see where this franchise goes next after this film (which is sure to make another billion dollars for Disney). I just hope that they don’t pick up with the same old Elizabeth Swann and Will Turner love story again, been there done that. This is definitely a solid kick off though for this Summer and makes this film the first popcorn flick to catch. So grab some snacks, sit down and enjoy the ride!

Film Review: “Everything, Everything”

Starring: Amandla Stenberg, Nick Robinson and Anika Noni Rose
Directed By: Stella Meghie
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 96 minutes
Warner Bros. Pictures

Our Score: 3 out of 5 Stars

“Everything, Everything” is going to draw a lot of on the surface comparisons to John Travolta’s “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble” and Jake Gyllenhaal’s “Bubble Boy.” It’s fair and unfair at the same time to make that comparison. It’s true that all three movies are about an individual, who’s basically allergic to life, overcoming the odds. But “Everything, Everything” is a lot more heartfelt and genuine, instead of cheapening its main character’s journey with low-brow humor or made-for-TV melodrama.

Maddy (Stenberg) suffers from severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID). Instead of a stereotypical bubble, her life is confinement inside her mother’s airtight home. Pauline (Rose) is a doctor that keeps constant watch and care over her daughter. Maddy seems defeated with the possibility that she’ll ever be able to explore the outside world. She limits her exploration to books she reads, online group chats with other kids who suffer from SCID and busying herself with architecture designs for an online course. Maddy’s wanderlust is sparked by a new neighbor, a loner, and uncharacteristically handsome boy, Olly (Robinson).

“Everything, Everything” is smart for recognizing that teen conversations no longer come in the form of passed notes, lengthy late night phone calls or basic interpersonal dialogue. The two connect over text and Internet, but “Everything, Everything” packages these heart-to-hearts cleverly. The movie plays out the conversation like they’re talking face-to-face, but in the realm of Maddy’s mind and in the playground of one of her architecture models. When the two finally do meet, they awkwardly communicate for the first time using words from their mouths and not with their thumbs.

The film’s sweetness is never overbearing and the cute relationship that developments is wholesome, while still maintaining a foot in reality. Maddy begins to yearn for life outside her sterile home while Olly is discovering there is hope in his miserable life. We subtly learn that his father is abusive, and that his mom, sister and he are emotional prisoners. Maddy and Olly find solace in each other. But alas, there’s a problem with the movie. It lacks courage.

The final act of this movie nearly sinks all the film’s good intention. For obvious reasons, I can’t talk about the ending, but I admit to being ignorant to the twist because I was expecting a unique ending, specific to the movie I was watching unfold. While the ending may have worked for the book this movie is based on, it doesn’t work in the movie. There was a decent shot at making “Everything, Everything” another “Fault in Our Stars” story, but the writers, of both the book and movie, lack the grit to deliver upon their character’s initial moxie.

Despite its flawed, cop-out ending, “Everything, Everything” finds it’s sensibilities in the relationship that develops between the leads. It’s faithful to their emotions, as well as their flawed humanity, although it’s a bit peculiar watching teenagers talking and acting so sincere without an underlying sense of dishonesty. Sometimes logic be damned when two teens are in love, or in this case, when the script calls for it.

Film Review: “Alien: Covenant”

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston and Billy Crudup
Directed By: Ridley Scott
Rated: R
Running Time: 122 minutes
20th Century Fox

Our Score: 2 out of 5 Stars

For the first time in well over a decade, there’s a decent amount of hype and high level of expectation surrounding an “Alien” film. There’s genuine public interest and hope that “Alien: Covenant” would add another rich layer of backstory to the close-quarters terror that audiences experienced back in 1979. But at the expense of bridging the gap between “Prometheus” and “Alien,” Ridley Scott has answered a question nobody asked and poorly answered a question that’s been left lingering since 2012.

The crew of the intergalactic colony ship, Covenant, is awoken mid-cryogenic sleep after a deep space electric charge frazzles their vessel. In the ensuing chaos, the crew’s captain (for some reason played by James Franco) is killed, the ship suffers extensive damage and the crew is alerted to a distress signal. What makes the distress signal curious is that it comes from a planet that’s more livable than the one they’re currently taking 2,000 colonists and thousands of human embryos to.

Acting Captain, Christopher (Crudup), wants to show strength by making a command decision to halt their current path and investigate the planet’s habitability as well as the distress signal. Christopher shrugs off logical concerns by crew members, like why an extensive search of the universe by precise computer programs would have missed this unheard of planet. While he lends an ear to Daniels’ (Waterston) unease, Christopher barrels towards the unknown. I’m sure you know this won’t end well.

The beginning of “Covenant” is ripe with tension, as we breathlessly wait for the best laid plans to fall apart. But once we’ve settled into the mysterious planet and we catch our first glimpse of some prototype xenomorphs, the pressure alleviates and is never reapplied. “Covenant” is covered in thick foreshadowing, that gives away its final act, even to someone who might be new to the “Alien” franchise.

However, fans of the franchise will be wondering what Ridley Scott has done. He’s stripped the dread and action, leaving behind something new, yet unpleasant. “Covenant” is a visually Gothic movie that’s more fixated with body horror than actual scares. It’s more fascinated with Frankenstein rather than the monster. While it is a slightly refreshing change of pace, the human element is nonexistent and the character’s intelligence is subpar.

Fassbender has double duty as the androids, Walter and David. David, if you remember, is the android from “Prometheus” who rides off into the proverbial sunset with Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) to find humanity’s creators. While most “Alien” franchise purists didn’t like “Prometheus,” I enjoyed it on the merits of a standalone film that plays a lot like a futuristic “Chariots of the Gods.” The thesis that all life is created by another living entity, and not a God, isn’t lost in “Covenant.”

Scott flirts a lot with man’s infatuation with creating life, discovering meaning, and tapping into what it metaphorically means to be immortal. It’s interesting to ponder, but it never evolves into anything meaningful and it’s buried under a lot of heavy exposition, robotic dialogue, and horror movie tropes. The most obnoxious of clichés is painting these astronauts and scientists like incompetent, horny teenagers stuck at Camp Crystal Lake.

I really wanted to like “Covenant,” especially since Fassbender’s performance was captivating and haunting at times, but I found myself worn out by its formulaic plot and how its human characters lacked human qualities. “Covenant” adds nothing new to the “Alien” franchise. It’s a bloated connector between two of Scott’s most ambitious films. But it’s interesting to note one scene in particular; it’s a narrated flashback that feels like Ridley Scott taking an eraser to “Prometheus.” Maybe he’ll eventually do that with “Covenant.”

Film Review: Rammstein “Rammstein: Paris”

“Rammstein: Paris”
Rammstein
Spinefarm
Director: Jonas Akerlund
Runtime: 128 minutes

Our score: 4 out of 5 stars

German industrial metalers Rammstein are set to release a new concert film on May 19th titled “Rammstein: Paris”. Shot over the course of two nights at the Palais Omnisports arena in Paris in front of 17,000 by Swedish director Jonas Åkerlund the film features 22 songs from the band’s expansive repertoire. The end result is not only the most spectacular collection of imagery from one of Germanys most successful bands, but also a masterpiece of music cinema, capturing Rammstein’s energy as a unique visual and sonic experience.

Being no stranger to Rammstein’s concert films featuring the bands over the top theatrics I was very eager to check out the band’s latest release “Paris”. Needless to say I was not disappointed. From the bands over the top entrance which has them walking through the crowd in a stoic procession like fashion before being lifted up to the rafters by industrialized scaffolding to the closing number “Pussy” which features front man Til Lindemann mounting a phallic like device only to douse the crowd in a mystery substance as it moved across the front of the stage. No one does a live show quite like Rammstein and I am sure attempting to film a show this immense was no small feel however director Jonas Akerland and his crew nailed it making this one of the better live releases from the band.

Though I found some of the special effects used to be a bit too much causing portions of the film to be difficult to watch due to their frantic nature “Rammstein: Paris” is a film fans of concert DVD’s have to check out. Having seen a large amount of live films from all different genres I don’t think I have seen any other band take such a cinematic approach with their filming. Lots of different angles and top notch sound made up any short comings I may have found. With the variety of formats the concert is set to be released in you owe it to yourself to check one out.

Track Listing
1.) Intro
2.) Sonne
3.) WOLLT IHR DAS BETT IN FLAMMEN SEHEN
4.) Wollt Das Bett in Flamm
5.) Sehnsucht
6.) Asche Zu Asche
7.) Feuer Frei!
8.) Mutter
9.) Mein Teil
10.) Du Riechst So Gut
11.) Links 2 3 4
12.) Du Hast
13.) Haifisch
14.) Buck Dich
15.) Mann Gegen Mann
16.) Ohne Dich
17.) Mein Herz Brennt
18.) Amerika
19.) Ich Will
20.) Engel
21.) Pussy
22.) Fruhling in Paris

Film Review: “Snatched”

Starring: Amy Schumer, Goldie Hawn and Randall Park
Directed by: Jonathan Levine
Rated: R
Running time: 1 hr 30 mins
20th Century Fox

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

As I sat down in the theatre to see her new film, I kept trying to remember when the last time I had seen Goldie Hawn on the big screen. It seemed like forever and I was right. It has been 15 years since she graced movie theatres, her last film being “The Banger Sisters” opposite Susan Sarandon. For almost five decades she has been the goofy but sweet blonde in countless films and now she returns opposite the goofy, not-so-sweet blonde Amy Schumer in the new film “Snatched.”

When we meet Emily (Schumer) we see her preparing for the vacation of her dreams, a trip to South America. However, after she is hilariously dumped by her boyfriend (Park) she realizes she has no one to go with her. She is also upset because the tickets are non-refundable. She decides to invite her mother, Linda (Hawn). Linda is the exact opposite of Emily, cautious whereas her daughter is, let’s say, not cautious. Things go from good to bad quickly when the two women are kidnapped and held for ransom. And with two comic gems like Schumer and Hawn, you can rest assured that comedy ensues.

What makes the film enjoyable is the fact that both stars play off of each other so well. Hawn has always been the smarter-then-she-seems character in films like “The Sugarland Express,” “Shampoo” and “Private Benjamin.” Schumer is more direct that not as smart. The two contrast well verbally, as well as physically when a little slap-stick is called for. They are joined on screen by the always funny Wanda Sykes and Joan Cusack, former government agents finally enjoying a vacation. Also funny, as Emily’s “momma’s boy” of a brother Jeffrey, is Ike Barinholtz, probably best known to comedy fans for his work on “The Mindy Project.”

Another reason I enjoyed this film was because it shines a light on what Hollywood thinks an attractive woman should look like. After the ladies are kidnapped, Schumer worries that she will be sold as a sex slave. Her kidnapper tells her that won’t happen because she has a “poofy” face. Earlier in the film, Schumer spends many minutes on screen in a bikini and it is a pleasure to see someone that looks like everyone else in the world and not an anorexic stick. Bravo, Amy!

As the film progresses the plot gets weirder and weirder and not every joke hits. However, there are enough laughs to ensure that we hopefully won’t have to wait another 15 years to see Goldie Hawn on screen.