Wish Upon

The curse of a mysterious music box unleashes a gory past on its history in Broad Green Pictures, “Wish Upon”. 17-year-old Clare Shannon (Joey King) is barely surviving the hell that is high school, along with her friends Meredith (Sydney Park) and June (Shannon Purser). So when her dad (Ryan Phillippe) gifts her an old music box with an inscription that promises to grant the owner’s wishes, she thinks there is nothing to lose and treats it as a hoax. Clare makes her first wish and, to her surprise, it comes true. Before long, she finally has it all: money, popularity and her dream boy. Everything seems perfect, until the people closest to her begin dying in gruesome and twisted ways. Now, with blood on her hands, Clare has to get rid of the box, before it costs her and everyone she loves the ultimate price. Be careful what you wish for. “Wish Upon” is directed by John R. Leonetti, and is rated PG-13 for violence and disturbing scenes of peril.

I wished for a good movie and ended up with “Wish Upon”, the latest in PG-13 teenage horror that meets the bare minimal of every uninspiring and unoriginal plot point that rests within the concepts of its script. You should know the routine by now; no blood or gore, poorly shot death sequences to keep with their handicap rating, and of course the worst in direction that involves dialogue so cringe-worthy that you can’t help but laugh when the movie is trying its hardest to be serious. If the name John Leonetti doesn’t jump out at you, it should. This guy has been making some truly awful movies for years. Films like ‘Mortal Kombat: Annihilation’, ‘Anabelle’, and now ‘Wish Upon’ rest on the resume of this troubled director. Going into this film, I can’t say I was expecting much, but I’ve found that no matter how low your pre-conceived thoughts are for a movie, a teen horror flick will always find a way to dig even lower, and ‘Wish Upon’ gladly accepts the challenge to remind you why the horror genre is unfortunately turning into a blending of recycled ideas that tries to pass itself off for originality.

On the surface level, ‘Wish Upon’ feels like a Frankenstein project of ‘The Craft’, ‘Final Destination’, and ‘Wishmaster’, three movies that have no business being welded together, but clearly come to mind when you see how blatant its intentions are. The idea of a box granting wishes is certainly nothing new for big screen film, but I found myself appalled at how similar of a road that Clare’s wishes came back to haunt her like the lead protagonist in ‘The Craft’. As for death scenes, like ‘Anabelle’, there is no antagonist figure in the film, so there’s no final showdown that happens. So how do we come across deaths in the movie? by simply feeding into the theory that death inevitably comes to you, similar to one of the three films that I previously mentioned. The death scenes lack any kind of energy or impact to their happening, and are skimmed over with impatient pacing from a script that feels like it is trying to squeeze in too much to an 83 minute runtime. What small benefit that I did get from these sequences were the unintentional laughs that arose from within me, leading everyone in the theater to believe that I am a psychopath. They are kind of right, but only because I’ve sat through too many of these movies that it’s made me a product of my environment.

Then there’s the corners that this movie so violently shoves its creative spark into. As the film goes on, we learn that the box can easily be disposed of if the owner disowns it or throws it away. This concept alone proves that this movie should’ve never been longer than ten minutes, and really brings out the worst in a protagonist who we are supposed to faithfully get behind. She could easily give it up at any minute and stop the deaths that are happening to those she loves, but she would rather risk it once more and cash in for the fancy prizes behind Satan’s curtain. As for the box itself, there were some questions that were never answered long after I left the theater. Early on, Clare wishes for her high school bully to rot by saying her name to the object. My problem is how does this box know which girl she’s talking about? Is she the only girl in the world with this name? When the owner disowns the box, they lose everything that they wished for. So could Clare keep the box buried underground where no one could get to it, keeping her rich? Look, I give the film credit for at least explaining the origins of its box, unlike ‘The Bye Bye Man’, but did we really need to seek an Asian translator for the lettering around the box during a day and age of Google advanced?

The editing as well does the movie no favors, abruptly cutting scenes in half that felt like they had an intention to go somewhere before the halting cut. Some examples of this and basically how one-tracked this movie’s progression feels are in the backlash death scenes that would sometimes chop a bunch of jarring angles together to make one presentation, or even finish the scene by cutting so fast without us ever having the opportunity to soak in the brutal consequence. If I pointed to just one glaring problem plaguing this film over and over, it would be that it refuses to ever let things play out to the benefit of the plot. It is constantly running itself over trying to get to the next scene without playing into the atmosphere of a scene’s true horror. This never allows anything to warrant a true reaction from its audience, and after a while you can start to piece together the predictability in setup that the film has repeatedly done for itself. Intrigue is the last thing to go from this tasteless drought, leaving you little reminder as to why you chose it in the first place.

I want to talk a little bit about Joey King because I have enjoyed her early work as an actor. I do however fear for the young adult part of her career, similar to Chloe Moretz, as this film is far from the best first step in that direction. Most of the time you can blame a director for a shoddy misfiring of direction with their characters, but here it’s only half of the problem. King too, as well as the rest of the cast around her feel so lackluster in delivery, most likely from the terrible dialogue that envelopes this picture, but the actors themselves can’t go forgiven because their personalities feel so lifeless. My biggest problem with King’s character in particular is that physically she looks like a popular girl, and in personality she is as selfish as it gets. I don’t buy for a second that her character is anything like the one-dimensional direction outline that the movie has set her up for. There’s no depth or impact to her character that make you feel empathetic towards her, and because of such, she might as well be another face in the crowd of bland teenagers who outnumber this cast.

THE VERDICT – ‘Wish Upon’ did give me lots of unintentional laughs, even if the presidents who adorn the money in my wallet gave me lots of intentional middle fingers. Aside from a ridiculous night in where you want to laugh at how truly mind-numbing a teenage horror film can be, there’s absolutely no reason to see it. Poor editing, breezy pacing, and enough plot holes and fundamental flaws to steer this one completely off of the rails, gives Leonetti another reason to become an alias for shamed directors not wanting to attach their names to trash, and for all I know, it is. I would wish this one upon my greatest enemy.

3/10

The House

The college wishes of a teenage girl rests in the hands of transforming their residence into “The House”. The acceptance of their daughter Alex (Ryan Simpkins) into the university of her choosing, Scott (Will Ferrell) and Kate (Amy Poehler) Johansen scramble to pull the funds together to give her the experience that she deserves. The couple find out that they lost their daughter Alex’s college fund, so they become desperate to earn it back so she can pursue her dream of attending in the fall. With the help of their neighbor Frank (Jason Mantzoukas), they decide to start an illegal casino in the basement of his house, complete with gambling, a bar-keep, and even a strip club. The once cautious parents soon find themselves over their heads at the seedy underworld of gambling that has suddenly overtaken their lives and personalities. “The House” is written and directed by Andrew Jay Cohen, and is rated R for adult language throughout, sexual references, drug use, some violence and brief nudity.

Behind every critical praise of an exceptional comedic performance is a director who lacks the same kind of credit for their commitment to making that comedian shine. For whatever reason, fate has worked well for Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler up to this time, as the duo have racked up a collection of box office draws that have put them at the head of the class of noteworthy Saturday Night Live cast members who struck it big. That time is coming to an end however, because Andrew Jay Cohen’s “The House” is not only one of the most far-fetched ideas in a script, it’s also sponged itself free of any laughs in the entirety of the movie. I’m serious, I sat through 83 minutes of this film as quiet as I would be if I were at church listening to a sermon. My excitement level was about the same as that previous comparison as well. For whatever reason, we get one of these movies yearly now, and what little charm or buzz that has surrounded these once vibrantly gifted actors has now put them on the path to conventional repetition to where they feel like they don’t even have to try anymore. That’s not to say that “The House” is a cash-grab. You would have to earn cash to grab it, and I, as well as the rest of the world, have grown tired of underplaying efforts from behind and in front of the camera that voids you of any kind of entertainment.

Much of this script revolves around this secret casino that apparently fifty people or so from the same town can majestically keep quiet from police authorities and an egocentric mayor who he himself is sponging money from the community. Suddenly, what happens inside of the casino becomes the story itself, and the film that revolved once around this daughter going to college is pushed aside so Ferrell and Poehler can say off-the-wall remarks and indulge in sight gags that feel ten years too late. My biggest problem with this script is that I don’t buy for one second that these two, let alone an entire community, can keep a secret like this considering how dumb these human canvases are painted. The film wants these people to be baffling idiots so they can be quirky for the audience watching, but they need them to be smart enough to keep this thing on the down-low. This stark contrast of back-and-forth leaves the film feeling like a fantasy is playing out in the heads of these boring parents, but unfortunately we don’t ever see the appeal in it that they do.

Scenes happen that go nowhere or make very little sense in the long run, and it all leads to a finale that feels so sloppy in diagraph that the movie often loses its moral compass in logical assertiveness. I do have to talk of some light spoilers here, but nothing that will make you feel ripped off by reading it. So at the start of the third act, the casino gets busted by the mayor and the police. They take all of the cash that they have accumulated, and you would think that would be the end of it. Nope, the next night they and about a hundred of their guests are back at it gambling and having a good time. I have two big problems with this scenario; one, the cops would be stalking this place out after they have been busted, and two, no gambler would come within a mile of this place less than twenty-four hours after it has been shut down. Had this scene happened before the big bust, then fine, but Cohen’s script is so sloppy that it doesn’t even have time to be honest with itself, let alone the audience that should feel like their intelligence has been insulted.

Cohen’s stance doesn’t improve much as a director either, because it’s clear that he has no control over his two leading stars for their abuse on the concepts of improv. To anyone who has read my most recent negative comedy reviews, you will know that my number one pet peeve in these movies that sours itself is gripping improv comedy to the point of annoyance. It is the jump scare of the comedy genre, and just as equally predictable when you know it’s going to happen. In “The House’s” case, it will be whenever something happens to Ferrell or Poehler’s characters that they find strange or peculiar, so now we know a long speech lurks behind this scene that should’ve been cut with just one funny line. Nope, Cohen leaves the camera rolling because something has to pad itself out for the run time when the rapid-fire plot sure doesn’t. These scenes for me are insufferable and make 83 minutes of a usually quick sit feel like two hours with your parents who are now trying to be hip and edgy.

If there is one pleasant surprise to this movie, it’s in the action and overall violence that opened my eyes quite a bit to how brutal this movie can be at times. There are quite a few bloody scenes that reach for the gross-out factor, but I was so smitten with something different than the Ferrell and Poehler comedy hour that I would’ve been fine with even a sing-a-long at this point. On top of the bloody surprises, the film also has a couple of fight sequences that are surprisingly done with such detail and precision that it makes them feel like they came out of a Jason Statham movie. This of course feels incredibly out of place with what kind of tone Cohen is trying to attain here, but I would be a fool if I tried to take any kind of positivity away from this movie. Each knee-jerk reaction is appropriately timed and achieves what it sets out to do in completely flooring the audience into the kind of seedy underworld that these once conservative townspeople have engaged in.

My previous words already told you everything that you have to know about Ferrell and Poehler’s mind-numbingly bland characters. Most notably, these two are playing themselves in every other movie that you have seen them in, in fact, you’d be hard-pressed in distinguishing the differences between Ferrell’s character here and the one he plays in “Daddy’s Home”. But the film does have some pop-up appearances from comedians that will feel like they have all been sent here to save this project. In addition to Mantzoukas who doesn’t have the best material to work with, but makes the most of this limited opportunity, there are appearances from Nick Kroll, Allison Tolman, Rob Huebel, Cedric Yarbrough, and Sebastian Maniscalco. There is also an appearance from one huge action star who should be years above this project, but seeing him did bring a much-needed smile to my face when the rest of the movie lacked that power. Since I’m sure one of my readers might want to see this movie, I will not spoil this brief occurrence, but I will say that it does break the fourth wall of sorts with where it’s headed creatively with the film when he does show up.

THE VERDICT – The roof falls in on this house mostly because its overabundance of improv stick, as well as inconsistency in the story keep it from ever braving the storm of mundane directing. For two comic actors well into their second decade of prominence, “The House” feels low even for Ferrell and Poehler who blow their stack of reputable chips on a game that does them no favors to even the most hardcore fans of both. Cohen’s latest is the kind of gamble that you as a moviegoer most definitely do not want to take, because what happens in a movie theater doesn’t just stay in a movie theater, it stays with your memories for life.

3/10

Transformers: The Last Knight

The key to saving the future is buried in the past of Camelot, in “Transformers: The Last Knight”. Michael Bay returns once again to helm the latest chapter of the Transformers franchise, this time conjuring up a story that proves only one world can survive. The film shatters the core myths of the Transformers franchise, and redefines what it means to be a hero. Humans and Transformers are at war, Optimus Prime is gone. The key to saving our future lies buried in the secrets of the past, in the hidden history of Transformers origins on Earth. Saving our world falls upon the shoulders of an unlikely alliance: Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg); Bumblebee; an English Lord (Sir Anthony Hopkins); and an Oxford Professor (Laura Haddock) who all must act fast before our time on Earth comes to an abrupt ending. “Transformers: The Last Knight” is rated PG-13 for for violence and intense sequences of sci-fi action, adult language, and some sexual innuendo.

If this is in fact the fifth Transformers movie in this Bay-helmed series, then one would think that a majority of the problems that plagued the earlier movies should be solved by now, right? “The Last Knight” is without a doubt the very worst of this series that I have seen so far, and sets the bar to incredibly low depths for the inevitable sequels that are bound to follow. If I were to tell someone who hasn’t seen these movies everything that’s wrong with them, I would save them time and tell them to just watch this movie. It’s got everything; slow-motion action sequences that overstay their welcome, jarringly compromising tonal shifts that often make it difficult to decide what genre category this should fall under, wincingly vicious dialogue that falls completely flat around these one-dimensional characters, and a knack for over-complicating and convoluting every kind of plot and subplot that make up the script. I have yet to enjoy a Transformers live action movie, but this is the first that has made me legitimately angry leaving the film, and has me debating if I want to finally use my veto card for future installments.

These movies are certainly no easy feat in run time, this one clocking in at nearly two-and-a-half hours, a basic average for this series. So of course this script has to be massive. To do this, we get a story that splits time between modern day and medieval times, the latter of which plays great importance to where this story is headed creatively. I’m fine with introducing new layers to this series to keep it fresh, but essentially this film is derived from every earlier movie before it; a high stakes game of capture the flag. In each movie, the Decepticons always invade Earth to capture something, and in this one it’s no different with the introduction of Merlin’s staf. What I don’t like about the writers establishing that Transformers were around throughout history is a two-fold problem. First, we as a civilization haven’t been able to learn their technology faster? and two, how can anyone keep a secret as big as robots invading over the course of 1600 years? The characters in the original movie (Government officers included) certainly seemed surprised upon the first invasion. But the film tries to be cute by establishing a secret society that have kept the robots from the eyes and ears of its people. If that’s the case, why has this society waited until the fifth invasion of the series to finally do something about it. What we’re they doing? biding their time? If this isn’t enough, there’s a noticeably big gap between Transformers fight sequences, as well as human character abandonment that overall attains a level of sloppiness that not even “Revenge of the Fallen” could attain quite so consistently.

The story is bad, but man does it pale in comparison to the overall dialogue composition that someone approved as being screen-ready. There are several problems that I have with the lines in the movie, but to sum it up, most of them drown on for far too long, fluffing out the run time extensively by never cutting to the point. On top of this, the progression halts every few minutes so a character can express their hollow personalities, or present a line of comedic dialogue to ruin the urgency of such matters. Some of the scenes that drove me crazy were when so much of the Staf’s history was being explained, and Anthony Hopkins character would stop to bicker with a robot, or take the boringly long route in conveying the importance of this piece. This script greatly needed another edit, so much so that my mind wandered repeatedly to how I would’ve shortened the long-winded releases that kept taking creative liberties, and gotten the same point across without the nauseating history lesson that followed. The comedy falls so flat most of the time in this film that I wish they would just leave it be. Michael Bay movies do have personality, but during a time of grave devastation for the world, it almost feels inappropriate that the movie would rather focus on the unlimitted cast of characters and making sure the audience knows that each and every one of them can be cooky and full of spunk.

On the subject of such characters, the problem of overcrowding continues in these movies, with about 90% of the film’s characters being brand new and needing valuable screen time to get their characters across. Considering this film violently shifts back and forth between the many groups, there’s just not enough valuable resources to bestow upon them to make their presence warranted. The most trivial for me was that of Laura Haddock. It’s true, her character is a valuable one when you think about what gets developed late in the second act of this movie, but the film does her zero favors in terms of material, often times serving as the prime argument for why women feel so alienated with their lack of female development in Michael Bay movies. Thankfully, we don’t get any close-up body footage here, but the film’s way of introducing her doesn’t paint her in the most likeable of lights early on, and throw her in the box of lost toys with other female leads by giving her a clumsily thrown together romance with Mark Wahlberg. Besides this, the additions of Anthony Hopkins and Isabella Moner were a positive and a negative respectfully. Hopkins is at least having fun in this role, so there’s not too much that I can condemn him for, but I could honestly do without his rambling which became insufferable and redundant once I decoded the set-up for it every time. Moner was the one character who I clung to because she channels the often ignored double sides of kids and female characters that Transformers hasn’t really capitalized on. It’s a discredit to the 15-year-old actress that we don’t get a lot of wiggle room with her in run time, but she does make the most of every scene, instilling an equal offering of intelligence and attitude in Izzy that make you want to stay with her character more than anyone else in this movie.

If Michael Bay can still do one thing gorgeously, it’s in his ability to depict high-priced action sequences that spare no expense in the effects department. The camera work is slightly too shaky-camera for me, but it’s passable enough that you can decifer what is going on in the sometimes convoluted field of battle. “The Last Knight” smashes us through buildings, wields many funnel clouds of explosions, and takes our breath away with some adrenaline-fueled intensity through the streets. The chase sequences in these scenes are a sight to behold, and were those rare moments that got me back into the movie when I felt I couldn’t take anymore of the poor pacing. A friend of mine recently mentioned on his podcast (WELKINONE.COM) that nobody else could do action at the level of intensity that Bay does, and I think I finally have to concede to him and give him his credit. Where Bay stumbles at nearly every other level of the directing capacity, he brilliantly takes the medal when it comes to capturing such devastation at a grand level, a true pioneer who has shaped action well into the 21st century.

THE VERDICT – “The Last Knight” is just that, the last night that I ever waste nearly three hours on a Michael Bay helmed Transformers. It’s a movie that summarizes everything wrong with the last ten years of his filmmaking career; Overstuffed and convoluted plot, cheesy cringeworthy dialogue, abuse of slow motion sequences that echo that of the snails pacing that drags on, and an overabundance of characters who most of which never get the proper development that they deserve to make an impact. Sure, the action is still there, but it’s such a small positive considering there are more than a couple of long spans in the script when the Transformers don’t appear. Haters of the series won’t be swayed by this effort, and true hardcore fans of the series will finally be tested to see just how deep their love is. If there is indeed more that meets the eye, consider me blind. I frankly don’t get it.

3/10

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

Critically Acclaimed filmmaker Guy Ritchie brings his dynamic style to the epic fantasy action adventure genre, in ‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword’. Starring Charlie Hunnam in the title role, the film is an iconoclastic take on the classic Excalibur myth, tracing Arthur’s journey from the streets to the throne. When the child Arthur’s father is murdered, Vortigern (Jude Law), Arthur’s uncle, seizes the crown. Robbed of his birthright and with no idea who he truly is, Arthur comes up the hard way in the back alleys of the Londininum, not knowing his royal lineage. But once he pulls the sword from the stone, his life is turned upside down and he is forced to acknowledge his true legacy…whether he likes it or not. He joins the rebellion and a shadowy young woman named Guinevere. He must learn to understand the magic weapon, deal with his demons, and unite the people to defeat the evil dictator, the same man who murdered his parents and stole his crown to become king. ‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword’ is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, some suggestive content and brief strong adult language.

Guy Ritchie is a prominent enough name when it comes to reputation in film for capturing an original angle of a project that he feels passionate about. Most notably, his action thrillers like The Man From U.N.C.L.E and Sherlock Holmes are my blend of comic awkwardness combined with dire consequences to mesh into a thrilling good time. So when I heard that he was tagged to direct a new adaptation of the King Arthur folklore, it did get me at least slightly curious because his style of filmmaking is more upbeat and faster paced when compared to the Arthur movies of the past that I grew up with. What comes of it is perhaps the strongest argument for why opposites most certainly do not attract. The Legend of the Sword isn’t just a terribly underwritten movie, it’s one whose visual scope in presentation fights to ever stay focused, humiliating itself with jumbled narration that feels like a child on too much sugar. This blending of worlds just doesn’t work in solidifying that middle ages feel of authenticity, and because of it, Ritchie’s dive into the dark ages is a mind-numbing affair of laughably bad cliches that hinder his overall growth as a director on an epic stage.

The story is an origins tale, highlighting how Arthur came to be known as the man who pulled the sword from the stone, but the way it catches the audience up during the first act is one that repeatedly made me wince and felt troubling on the progression of the current storyline. Immediately, The Legend of the Sword feels like it suffers from a lot of the problems that Warcraft did, in that there’s a three hour presentation just screaming to get out here, but has to trim an hour in run time just to keep the butts in the seats. What that decision sacrifices is truly one of the worst first acts that I have seen in 2017. Everything from Arthur’s childhood, to the death of his father, to him being raised on the streets is glossed over like the fast-forward button on your DVD has been pushed to 3x speed. As the film went on, there was also a violent shove into contrasting pacing that often made it feel like two different films. The first and third acts skim through the material that could’ve used more emphasis, yet the second act slows things down by dulling us with the intellectual growth and training of what feels like a ten-year-old. So little pizazz or excitement happens during this scene, and it felt like the batteries on my remote ran out suddenly, after pushing fast-forward so many times during the first hour.

Flashback montages can serve a vital purpose in a film that dives into the past and present, but here it is presented in such a way that convolutes and confuses the audience into trying to figure out which scene is actually current day. For example, a scene will begin, Arthur will then talk about how he escaped authorities, then an immediate cut displaying that story will overtake our visual storytelling. This wouldn’t be a problem if it didn’t happen so much that it becomes a drinking game by the end of the movie. It got to the point where I was hoping no character would ask any questions for fear we would be forced to be yanked back into the past instead of steering forward. Hell, sometimes a character will discuss a plan, and while the narration is being heard, we see the plan being executed visually, and then go back to the scene where the discussion took place. WHAT WERE THEY THINKING? How does this pass the final cut? A story is usually told in a straight line, but King Arthur would rather scribble left-to-right and vice versa, testing the patience of audience members who don’t luck out in just having this happen during the beginning of the film.

For anyone who loves CGI effects, this movie will be right up your alley. It’s not all terrible, but I wondered frequently if that is because most of the movie’s color scheme is presented so dark, as to not show the graphing and shading of the animated animal counterparts. This movie flies off of the rails quickly in this movie, embracing a code of magic that stretches logic well beyond that of what we’ve come to know in this particular folklore. Because of this, The Legend of the Sword feels more like a fantasy dive into imaginative waters, similar to the same scale as say 300 or Gods of Egypt, the latter feeling more like what we’re given creatively. I did enjoy Ritchie’s camera work in communicating the very immensity and epic of this kind of story. The long-shot angles certainly play into capturing the kind of effect that this war has on the land. Where the CGI doesn’t flatter me is in the final battle scene when all rules in logic are set to burn. Besides the fact that there is CGI fire that doesn’t have smoke accompanying it, there is a forty foot tall snake in this movie that looks like it came straight out of a Windows 95 program. The very movements and synchronicity of this design had me fighting back laughter, and it’s a terrible final swallow of disappointment to go with the two hours that made this Ritchie influenced fast-paced camera style even more boring than that of the lessons we learned about Arthur in Elementary School.

What Ritchie’s scope didn’t nail was that of the fight sequences, which are terribly choreographed and even more terribly shot. This film falls under two of my least favorite annoyances with modern day action films, in that it shoots too close and cuts far too many times to ever register mentally what is being depicted. If that wasn’t enough, this tired old cliche of slowing the action down for two seconds after the registered hit happens is overused to the feeling of walking through a pool of syrup. This kind of effect was cool when it debuted in The Matrix. THAT WAS 1999. Find something new. I will give credit though because without the slow-down effect, I would’ve never been able to register what was happening because of poor sequencing that nearly left me cross-eyed.

The acting wasn’t terrible by a solid collection of veteran actors, but most of the leads did have me violently suspending disbelief to even think for a second that they were who they were supposed to be. Charlie Hunnam is someone who I mentioned during The Lost City of Z who has unbelievable potential if he is given the proper script in offering a compelling character. My problem with him as the title character is that Arthur here feels arrogant, immature, and even heartless when he relates to his peers. The only thing that really makes him Arthur is his wielding of the sword, but without it, he lacks the true essence in awe to become a revolutionary. I blame this more on poor character directing by Ritchie, and a script that hindered Hunnam’s growth behind every turn. Eric Bana is also relegated to a brief cameo as Arthur’s Father. From a physical stature, Bana doesn’t scream to me that he is king of the land, and even more so, his delivery never feels like he fully commits himself to relaying the true heartbreak that his character inevitably will face. The one positive that I did have was Jude Law as Vortigern, not necessarily for his dedication to character, but more for his hamming up at the script that he knew he was far better than. Law is having the time of his life as this character, and he feels magnetic anytime he shows up on screen sporting a shit-eating grin that finds it easy to soak up one of Hollywood’s most charismatic.

THE VERDICT – King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword is attention grabbing, but for all of the wrong reasons. It’s a fast-cutting, logic-bending dullard of a presentation by one of the truly most gifted directors of the past decade, who sacrifices the heart of the original story’s charms in favor of CGI overhauls of animals that leave this story feeling hollow and lacking any kind of considerable substance. It takes a real warrior to pull the sword from the stone that buried this movie under two hours of ridiculousness, but this is one task where I lack the true grit needed to make many positives out of this grand scale disaster. F for Forgettable.

3/10

The Circle

The job opportunity of a lifetime for an up-and-coming I.T brainiac comes at the hands of digital counter-surveillance, in The Circle. When Mae (Emma Watson) is hired to work for the world’s largest and most powerful tech and social media company, she sees it as an opportunity of a lifetime. As she rises through the ranks, she is encouraged by the company’s founder, Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks), to engage in a groundbreaking experiment that pushes the boundaries of privacy, ethics and ultimately her personal freedom. Her participation in the experiment, and every decision she makes begin to affect the lives and future of her friends, family and that of humanity. The Circle is written and directed by critically acclaimed writer James Ponsoldt, and is rated PG-13 for a sexual situation, brief strong language and some thematic elements including drug use.

I’ve never read one word of James Ponsoldt’s accompanying novel, which has quite the passionate following in our own world, but I think I can safely argue that it doesn’t have the same kind of problems that hinder its big screen counterpart of any kind of emotional attachment to. The Circle for me was one of the strangest movie experiences that I’ve ever had the pleasure of sitting down to, mainly because I never invested any of my emotions to this script that is all over the place in terms of what kind of movie it really wants to be. As a director, Ponsoldt really feels strangely out of his element in terms of framing or character development that never allows a single soul from this A-list cast to stand out. It feels like a wasted opportunity at telling a story that relates to our very own dependency on evolving technology, instead opting for ideas and plots that make us as an audience feel smarter than the characters we are supposed to be embracing. It wants to be a modern day 1984, but it lacks the dread or the definitive stamp of approval or disapproval on what is good or bad from a character standpoint from that prized picture.

The story basically observes the idea of counter-surveillance and the human response to such a gift. The film tells us that secrets are a lie and that everything should be out in the open. I guess lying has nothing to do with putting on a show for millions to see, instead of being the person with a particular set of traits that you have evolved into. It was also strange to see a film that doesn’t exactly have clear-cut, line-in-the-sand protagonist and antagonist to mold into the story. Emma Watson’s Mae is someone who changes sides at the drop of a hat, rejecting the idea that her soul is not for sale because of the newer, bigger gadget. This very much seems to be a world without law enforcement or general law to begin with. If this weren’t the case, I find it difficult to believe that this enormous group of technological termites could go around adding cameras to private property, particularly famed landmarks. Then there’s the chatting aspect to the film’s surveillance mode. One of our main characters decides to broadcast their entire life to the people watching. Thankfully, none of these viewers are creeps to curse on a grand stage this immense, otherwise it might be too real to any chat room in our own real world. Thankfully again, PG-13 gladly takes care of this surreal aspect.

The ending left me spell-bound for all of the wrong reasons. Considering this movie does a lackluster job at building any kind of dramatic pulse or urgency for the movie, there is (SURPRISE) no conflict at the end to tie everything together. The screenplay just kind of fizzles out in whatever was the easiest possible way for our cast to get out of this disaster the fastest. Should I be happy? Should I be angry? I never really knew because there isn’t enough ambition in establishing the motivations of every character. Where it all ends is hilarious to a degree because it doesn’t feel like an actual ending, it feels like the camera ran out of film, a final middle finger to the audience expecting some form of memorable positive to justify the 105 minute wasted investment that they just made. I can’t think of many films that played everything as safe and conventional as this one did, lacking any kind of energy or excitement to get its terrifying ideas across to the audience with free-flowing commentary. I guess a film doesn’t have to be good if it has some of your favorite actors and actresses doing stuff for nearly two hours.

On the subject of said cast, they are all sadly wasted with very little productive exposition to highlight their characters from the emotionless shadows that they essentially are. Karen Gillian is in the film as Emma Watson’s best friend, and I still don’t know what nationality her character was supposed to be. Karen is of Scottish nationality, complete with accent, and that accent comes out on more than a few occasions. Towards the end of the film you find out that her character is from Scotland, which is fine, but then why was she delivering an English accent on and off? Only a film this jumbled could have you making fun of something one way, and then turn it around and realize you were trashing it from the wrong angle the entire time. Watson isn’t anything remarkable. Her performance is the definition of phoning it in, and there’s nothing compelling or intriguing about Mae as a character. To be honest, for a film that revolves around these intelligent female leads, Watson’s character comes off as naive in standing up for what she believes in. Tom Hanks and John Boyega are completely wasted, showing up whenever their minimal appearance clauses need to be met. Hanks production company Play-Tone even produced this movie, but Hanks clearly saw the writing on the wall. As what is supposed to be our antagonist, Hanks never exerts the fun or conniving nature that this kind of movie needs to make it stand out in a strange scientist kind of way. A missed chance to extend Hanks’s dependable personality to levels that have never been seen.

There is at least some fun to be had at some of the presentational aspects of the movie that constantly kept me giggling. The editing here is shocking in that I often wondered how this could possibly be the finished product. One scene that comes to mind is the intro to John Boyega’s character, in which he hands Watson a bottle of wine from the bushes. In the very next shot, they are each holding two wine glasses. How can something so evident be missed in post production and sequencing? Then there’s the painfully bad ADR that we hear without the character moving their lips. Most of this is obviously on Gillian’s character to fix her inconsistent accent, but my favorite examples were in that of the visual telephoning scenes between Watson and her parents (Played by Glenne Headly and the late Bill Paxton). Technology always has the unfortunate side effects to delay a visual response, but to this level, we are left through several scenes waiting for answers from the other side, in the slowest game of walkie-talkie that you’ve ever seen. Every time one of these scenes came on-screen, I shuttered knowing that I was locked in for at least the next five minutes for what should be a one minute scene.

The Circle is a bafflingly bad cautionary tale about the dangers of giving away too much of our liberties to fad corporations. It does so without the slightest evidence of thrills, conflict, or even remote entertainment to get us over the hump of two dull hours that beats us over the head with what we already know. James Ponsoldt’s stories would be better left in literary form instead of the ham-fisted, half-baked idea that we are presented with. Like the people of the world, this one should never be seen by the eyes of anyone on a digital screen.

3/10

Unforgettable

The dangerous actions of Katherine Heigl against her ex-husband and new girlfriend, make her ‘Unforgettable’. Tessa Connover (Katherine Heigl) is barely coping with the end of her marriage when her ex-husband, David (Geoff Stults), becomes happily engaged to Julia Banks (Rosario Dawson)—not only bringing Julia into the home they once shared but also into the life of their daughter, Lilly (Isabella Rice). Trying to settle into her new role as a wife and a stepmother, Julia believes she has finally met the man of her dreams, the man who can help her put her own troubled past behind her. But Tessa’s jealousy soon takes a pathological turn until she will stop at nothing to turn Julia’s dream into her ultimate nightmare. Unforgettable is directed by longtime producer, first time director, Denise Di Novi, and is rated PG-13 for scenes of violence and some adult language.

Ever since Fatal Attraction, Hollywood has gathered the idea that female audiences will rush to the film to see the newest of obsessive lover angles, a subgenre that I have created myself for the overabundance of offerings that this setup has unleashed. Over the last few years, films like No Good Deed, The Perfect Man, Obsessed, When the Bough Breaks, and The Boy Next Door are just a few of the suffocating masses that this critic has had to endure, but Unforgettable may take the crashing depths to new lows. For a title as polarizing as this one, this movie better be good for setting itself up for the butt of jokes with clever critics everywhere. But Di Novi’s first directing effort shows the young lady has a lot to learn not only with plausible scenarios, but also in tone-deaf attitude for her film that occasionally takes itself far too seriously. The one positive that I can say for every movie on the list that I named a second ago is that they are all incredibly self-aware for the stories that they are trying to tell. This kind of genre is cheap trash at its finest, and should be treated as such. There’s nothing remotely memorable about this chapter in the obsessive lover genre, and that is perhaps its biggest misconception.

For starters, we are treated to the latest in foreshadowing intros that gives away more than desired for anyone looking forward to 95 minutes of intriguing developments. For anyone who knows me, you know I detest foreshadowing scenes in the modern age of film because very few know how to do it without spoiling important details. For Unforgettable, we are treated to two co-plots in the film. The first is the obvious with the Mother versus the stepmother, and the second is the past of Rosario Dawson’s character coming back to haunt her. Julia was the victim of an abusive boyfriend, and that intro gives away important aspects to the finale of the movie ninety minutes before it rightfully should. This isn’t the only misfire in direction however, as we learn midway through the movie an aspect to these characters that doesn’t quite add up to the setup in this story. MINOR SPOILER – Tessa cheated on David and that is the reason why he left her. The problem with that is it makes sense and doesn’t put Tessa as the disadvantaged. She screwed herself over by cheating on her husband, so why care so much to get him back? Is it a possible scenario? Yes, but I think this story would work better if David plotted the action against her, or even that Julia was the woman that David cheated on Tessa with. Can you imagine the personal nature of that story?

Then there’s the huge plot holes that shows you the attention to detail that the film has for itself. There is an important phone hacking that happens early on in the movie that comes back to wrongfully accuse a character, and this has to be the dumbest police department that I have ever had the pleasure of viewing on-screen. Apparently this department finds it incapable of checking the I.P address of where the texts were coming from, or even checking the phone itself of the accused to see if her data matches that of what was typed. 21st century, movie, follow me here. If you are like me and love to notice continuity errors, you will also notice that during the ending a character gets hit from behind across the head with a fire poker. What’s funny about this is that he has a huge cut on his forehead when we see him turn around. That’s some fire poker, I tell you. I also love a search engine in a movie, where you can type in a name at common as Michael Vargas in Los Angeles, and only come up with one answer. Thankfully, it was the right person that this character was looking for, or the conversation of persuading him to come and have sex with the typer would be extremely awkward.

The pacing is at least harmless, even if it could afford to shave ten minutes or so with how much about the story we are spoiled to from the get-go. This is a movie that does float by accordingly, but the first hour does still surprise me for how very little this movie indulges in itself to be the kind of film that women can gossip about for hours after. The stuff that we came to see doesn’t happen until the final half hour, and before that we are treated to every obvious setup that this film has borrowed from other, better films to relay just how deranged this character is. What I could’ve used was a slower degenerating process on the character of Heigl’s. There’s never really any kind of slow transformation to pinpoint exactly when the worst of it got the best of her, so this story stays competently one-dimensional at all times.

There’s very little to rave about on the performances or characters outside of the work of Dawson herself. There was a definite taste in my mouth while watching this that this is an actress who knows she is too good for the kind of story, but the possibility to star in her own movie was one that was too good to pass up. I almost wish she did. Julia is at least the strongest written character in the movie, battling through a troubled past that has her mind every bit as fragile as her female antagonist. That is the single aspect about the movie that worked for me, and could’ve used a little more teasing to play up if what Julia is seeing is really going on inside of her head. Katherine Heigl isn’t an actress who I have a problem with, but outside of her haunting eyes, there’s very little weight or intimidation to her performance here. It all reeks of an actress playing against type for the first time, and it sent me back to the days of Malicious, in which Molly Ringwald played the same character that Heigl now saunters through. The biggest waste however, is in that of Geoff Stults as David. A character so void of intellectual ability that he finds himself constantly ignoring all that Tessa does wrong. If he’s this infatuated with her still, then why not get back together with her? It’s clear that he has enough nice things to say. My biggest problem with this character is ultimately it’s not how divorced parents act in the majority. Thankfully Stults is really just table dressing for the main course. I believe you could get any male actor to come in here and sleep through half of the job that he does. An early contender for Biggest Braindead Character of 2017.

In general, Unforgettable supplies its critics with enough ammunition for the jokes aimed at its unwise title. The problem with this film isn’t that I wish to forget it, but that I never saw it in the first place. Denise Di Novi’s debut effort is wrong on nearly every end of the spectrum, but most of all because it forgets to turn trash into treasure by embracing the campy vibes to live up to said title, a concept that shouldn’t be difficult for the same country that made Adam Sandler rich. There’s too much conventionalism to never play into the true asinine of this particular plot, lacking effective storytelling to get the blood pumping.

3/10

CHIPS

‘CHIPS’ is the latest 70’s television show to get the big screen treatment, in this remake starring Dax Shepard and Michael Pena. Jon Baker (Dax Shepard) and Frank “Ponch” Poncherello (Michael Peña) have just joined the California Highway Patrol (CHP) in Los Angeles but for very different reasons. Baker is a beaten up pro motor-biker trying to put his life and marriage back together. Poncherello is a cocky undercover Federal agent investigating a multi-million dollar heist that may be an inside job—inside the CHP. The inexperienced rookie and hardened pro are teamed together, but clash more than click, so kick-starting a partnership is easier said than done. But with Baker’s bike skills combined with Ponch’s street savvy it might just work…if they don’t drive each other crazy along the way. ‘CHIPS’ is written and directed by Dax Shepard himself, and is rated R for crude sexual content, graphic nudity, pervasive language, some violence and drug use.

‘CHIPS’ is an interesting concept in script and tone because I’m not quite so sure about who it is marketed towards. Fans of the 70’s television show won’t like it because it abandons the working formula that made the series a success for five years. Youthful fans who have never seen the show and just want to watch a good movie won’t like it because there’s nothing funny or entertaining about this juvenile film that can barely be called a remake. Over the last fifteen years, remakes of 70’s and 80’s TV shows have been hit or miss for their finished products. Most notably, films like ’21 Jump Street’ or ‘The Man From UNCLE’ have attained that rare stamp of approval from TV enthusiasts of the original, while films like ‘Starsky and Hutch’ and ‘Dark Shadows’ have done lasting damage. Unfortunately, ‘CHIPS’ will fall with the latter because this often distracted bro-comedy offers very little homage or memorable material to justify its presence among the remake ranks. This is Shepard’s second time behind the camera, and its clear that his admirable ambitions overshoots the actuality of his grip on the pulse of this particular franchise.

At 96 minutes, there’s very little in positive returns for that of a script that takes every ten minutes to halt what little momentum these characters or subplots build on. One example of such is the noticeable stance on homophobia, which holds no bearing or place in this particular story. Because of this, ‘CHIPS’ often feels like it was made ten years too late, when the poking fun of cultural explorers because eye-rolling. Often times, this movie feels like it was written by a minor who just peeped his first nudity magazine. The R-rating is used to show female breasts, or to let the cast drop the occasional F bomb, which has zero impact on their overall comedic timing or flawed delivery. Even more so, this movie has some of the most obvious foreshadowing in storytelling that I have seen most recently. It’s easy to spot these lines from the second they are presented because often it holds no meaning or accordance to the material being shuffled in dialogue. Some of these examples were Shepard’s character having bionic limbs from bike accidents, so he tells his captain on the first interview that rain is bad for him. So of course there will be a scene where rain prominently pops up. Another one involves Shepard saying he hates blending house smells because they make him vomit, so of course we are going to have a scene where this gets to him. Pena and Shepard have a conversation early on about girls who marry their fathers, then sure enough there’s a line of dialogue by the end of a movie where a female cop explains that she likes Shepard because he reminds her of her father. This isn’t even half of what I found, and it makes the material more than slightly telegraphed as I waited for the ending.

Then there’s the dialogue, a literal hodge-podge of awful line reading. At first I wondered if this was intentional to play up to the laughably bad forced readings of 70’s nostalgia, but then I realized what little in storyline progression that this movie actually had. This film has this vast offering of multiple scenes that will halt in order for Pena and Shepard to discuss their latest sexual conquests. Most of the time it’s things that the typical grown up would learn in high school, and it hangs what is going on around them in mid-air waiting patiently for when they finish up. I will get more to the characters later on, but Pena’s character in particular crippled me, as every other line of dialogue concluded with a “bro”. On top of that, most of these reads feel like they never should’ve made the finished product, as they rarely ever feel believable through the dense fog of ludicrous developments. Now I’m not foolish enough to expect great dialogue from the CHIPS remake, but it does help the entertainment value if I can immerse myself and believe that these two idiots are officers of the law to benefit the story.

As for the performances, there was nothing of any charismatic charm or finesse to justify the casting of Pena and Shepard beyond the latter’s triple layer mold of power on the project. What passes for character exposition in this movie is the most brief of offerings for us to indulge in. Pena’s character is a sex addict, that’s it. That is all that we have to hang our investment of this character on. Shepard’s is at least slightly more in-depth; he’s an ex-motocross performer whose wife is cheating on him. How could you not want to spend over an hour-and-a-half with these guys? Beyond this, the two have virtually no on-screen chemistry between them, often times feeling like two actors who just met and were asked outside to come in and put on a show on-stage for twenty people. Vincent D’Onofrio is decent, but the biggest aspect to his character is that we learn something about his moral stigma early on that the movie doesn’t catch up to for another eighty minutes, taking us through the most obvious of movie mysteries.

I do have one positive to this movie however, and it’s that Shepard at least has a distinct view for bike chase sequences that serve as the single lone aspect that outdoes the original. These scenes don’t come nearly enough in the overall finished product, but there are some exceptionally well depicted tracking shots that take us through the ritzy areas of Beverly Hills. These luxurious landscapes breeze by through each swerve and turn that our protagonists take us on, and it overall makes for a fast-paced action thrill ride that serves as the brief moment that this film takes our breath away. I also greatly enjoyed the POV style that put us face-to-face with our riders as they embrace the fast-and-dangerous lifestyle. Most of the time, POV won’t work because you miss what is most important that is going on around the actors and action, but the rendering here is justifiable because these officers are constantly imbedded in the chaos that surrounds them.

Whatever CHIPS intends to be, one thing is certain; this film lacks the energy and chemistry of a 70’s TV show by comparison (Laugh intended). A staggerly unfunny comedy that puppeteers the sensitivity of homophobia and important female leads. Something that would make sense in the 70’s, but not in a politically correct 2017 that has grown above that. Shepard has an artistic eye for motocross sequences and little else. Perhaps a future in the X-Games, instead of feature length films is just up his alley. Either way, CHIPS is coming to a yard sale near you.

3/10

Wilson

A troubled, older man named ‘Wilson’ stands at the metaphorical fork in the road, when his life changes for the better. Woody Harrelson stars as Wilson, a lonely, neurotic and hilariously honest middle-aged misanthrope who reunites with his estranged wife (Laura Dern) and gets a shot at happiness when he learns he has a teenage daughter (Isabella Amara) he has never met. In his uniquely outrageous and slightly twisted way, he sets out to connect with her and make things right with the way certain disappointments happened in his life. All the while, settling down and garnering the kind of lifestyle that everyone should feel entitled to. ‘Wilson’ is directed by Craig Johnson, and is rated R for adult language throughout and some sexuality.

This movie deceives its audience with one of the most exaggerated trailers that I have seen in quite some time. ‘Wilson’ is a comedy that wants to badly to be a message-baring dramatic piece, alienating its former in a way that was not only damaging to the film, but also to audiences that will deal with 90 minutes of bland personalities and narration that will exert more pity out of you than feel good humor. I am not embellishing even in the slightest when I say that this movie made me so depressed that I now feel immense uncertainty with the next series of comedy offerings that I will take in. In metaphoric terms, ‘Wilson’ is a one legged dog that loses a fight to a pack of angrier, hungrier dogs, then gets run over, then limps its way to the sidewalk, where it gets chewed up by a lawn mower. Vicious example I know, but this movie fails over and over with offering the sweeter side to Daniel Clowes character, when he created and penned this story decades ago. It’s a set-up that dooms itself in repetition, as well as an incoherent screenplay that feels far too often that it is throwing any idea at a wall to see what sticks.

It’s certainly easy to see the overdone pitch here, over-and-over again. Each scene starts off with a fresh landscape different from the scene before it. Wilson comes along to interact with someone embracing their privacy, gets involved in a long-winded conversation with said person, and then says something outrageous to offend or alienate that person. That’s it. Clowes ‘Wilson’ novel is a series of one page animations that feel like your typical Sunday morning cartoon strip in the local paper. The problem is how does this equate to a three act structure that is rarely ever given time to breathe between extremities, as well as time to soak in the reactions before jarringly bad editing comes in to break up what little reactions it garners from its audience. Honestly, I did laugh a few times during ‘Wilson’, most of which were the quick-digs that were prominently featured in the trailer. What did pleasantly surprise me was to find out that this movie is rated R, so that juvenile humor can blossom to the fullest potential. Unfortunately, this film is a comedy for all of the first act, after which it dips into one of the truly most pathetic protagonist stories that can not improve its credibility when one thing after the other diminishes this character and his hopes with each passing second.

Wilson himself is the kind of guy to let life walk all over him without feeling the kind of fire or charisma to fight back. He’s utterly pathetic, rude to everyone he comes across, and selfishly puts his own wants and needs above everybody else no matter what toll it will take on them. Harrelson himself plays the character fine, emoting the most in this fragile character that deserved to be studied instead of poked at with a stick, but he just isn’t presented in the brightest of lights. That rendering smile and wink that Woody has perfectly crafted over a respectable career is there enough to think that something more memorable is behind every turn, but unfortunately it is a pipe dream that never materializes. In addition to him, the supporting characters in this film by actors like Laura Dern, Cheryl Hines, and especially Isabella Amara as Wilson’s depressed daughter Claire, are equally as unrelatable and benign as the title character. After each interaction with these characters, the film slips further and further into a reclusive state, offering the occasional shock-and-awe dialogue just to see if the audience is still awake. Thankfully, Judy Greer does turn in a brief shining light that impacts Wilson the most, despite a brief lasting power. She’s the kind of positive influence that makes me want to grab Wilson and tell him to pay attention to what’s good about his life, and forget about the past that is better left exactly there.

At a flimsy hour-and-a-half, you would think that pacing shouldn’t be a problem at all, but this movie drags its feet like an infant throwing a fit at the beach. Pacing in comedies certainly aren’t a problem if the comedic effect is in full swing, but considering I only laughed at maybe 10% of the jokes in ‘Wilson’, it’s safe to say that I checked my watch on more than one occasion. It feels like forever mostly because of choppy editing that builds addition to these sixty second scenes that never amount to anything other than throwaway. It’s a certainty that this screenplay is either written poorly, or was at the very least harshly editing to leave out some important aspects. One such scene is a courtroom deposition that we as an audience never see, but hear plenty about from three different scenes that mention the importance of it. This plays into the shock I discovered when I checked my clock late in the movie. When I realized that there was still a half hour left in this movie, I wondered how that could be. This character and tracking story respectively, had been through so much within the first two acts of this movie. Even more so when you consider that where this movie should’ve ended, it doesn’t. It drags on further for fifteen more minutes of cringe-worthy, dumbed-down choices that rip away that chance of a happy ending for this fragile presence. The movie’s ending is fine enough, but I feel like it would’ve been better if past dealings were left in the shadows of this maturing man who is moving forward.

‘Wilson’ better serves as a two minute trailer that tightly boxes in the best laughs of the movie, and teaches everything that you need to know about this particular character. Harrelson’s charm is seeking air from the suffocating cloth of material that is being forced against his nose, but occasionally breaks free to remind us that one of the most enjoyable personalities is still under the glasses and thinning hair line. I only wish I could’ve said the same for the bleak, moronic character written for him. Daniel Clowes best work would be better left alone as a book, rather than to turn it into a movie that feels choppy and lacks most of the storytelling dynamics of its material.

3/10

Rings

The visions of the most infamously dangerous videotape returns thirteen years after the events of the initial chapters, in Rings. Directed by F Javier Gutierrez, the film tells the story of Julia (Matilda Lutz), a young woman who becomes worried about her boyfriend, Holt (Alex Roe) when he explores the dark urban legend of a mysterious videotape said to kill the watcher seven days after viewing. She sacrifices herself to save her boyfriend and in doing so makes a horrifying discovery: there is a “video within the video” that no one has ever seen before, sure to bring terrifying imagery to those who embrace it. Rings is rated PG-13 for violence/terror, thematic elements, some sexuality and brief drug material.

To anyone like me who didn’t get much entertainment from the original two Rings movies, the third installment will do absolutely zero to change your perception. The thing with some sequels is sometimes they can be so different in production from one film to the next that you often wonder if you are even watching the same series. There are no doubts what so ever that this is from the same series because every one of them have put a spell of endless sleep over me. Even typing this out now, I think about how beautiful my bed looks. I could swear it’s even winking at me. Rings is the latest horror movie to find itself on the delayed schedule, after a disappointing Summer 2016 season for horror movies shelved this one until February. After viewing it, I can safely say that this is the worst kind of sequel because of how unnecessary it really is. The extending branches of Samara get some story exposition that conveniently we never discovered or even skimmed over from the first two offerings, and you can almost see the cloud of desperation extending around the edges of every scene, because this movie has little to offer in terms of frights or even memorable imagery. A callback to straight-to-DVD films that try to grasp on just a little longer to those days when it was once king.

The presentation once again weighs heavily on the eyes, as this greyish overcast fogs its way through the clarity of every scene and shot. If this benefits in one way only, it is in at least accomplishing the proper tone for Samara and the decay of the environment around her. Setting has never been a problem for this trilogy of films, but brace yourself accordingly because it is the lone positive that I pulled back from the film. The editing feels dicey again, cutting death scenes far too quickly to honor the PG-13 code of horror. I find it difficult to write on paper what even happens during the few death scenes that this movie does garner. How do they die? Beats me, the audience doesn’t see anything, and only hears a slight shriek to convey that our poorly written character has crossed over to the otherworld. One can only wonder how engaging these movies could be if for one second they catered less to teenagers and presented a sequel strictly for the fans who grew up with this series. I say grow up because in the over thirteen years since our last installment, it’s clear that this story and design hasn’t matured a day. There’s still the worst in C.G effects that certainly don’t bring to mind the technological advances of 2016 to mind.

Jump scares return accordingly to properly pay homage to the current formulaic methods of chilling the audience, but there’s something slightly different to its delivery this time. The film’s sound editing almost becomes a parody of itself as scenes with high volume are startlingly reduced from one second to the next with predictable silence that all but highlights something is coming from the darkness. As usual, none of the cuts and increase of volume for these cheap scares are justifiable, most notably in that of an umbrella that seems to make screeching sounds as it opens. Either that thing needs oil or this movie has zero faith in its audience to call it on its bullshit. I’m shooting for the latter. Beyond this and the trimmed down violence, the movie goes so long without a death scene during the second and third acts that the movie instead becomes a testing history lesson on Samara’s dark past, an angle that probably shouldn’t be necessary by the third film in a series, but then again these movies as a whole do move at a snails pace for storytelling.

One angle that I wish this movie would’ve explored more fruitfully was that in the technological improvements since our last movie. With the current age of Youtube and social media alike, Rings had the capability to change this series as a whole for the better, instilling a real fear for the audience at home who love click-bait media. Instead of exploring any of this promising area however, the movie (like its predecessors for VHS technology during the DVD era) is stuck once again in the past, this time engaging in Quicktime software like it’s the newest thing that all of the cool kids are raving about. I’m not saying that Quicktime isn’t still around and used accordingly for Apple hard drives, but I am saying that this reference feels greatly outdated in an age where HD video is at our fingertips with the click of a mouse. After 97 minutes of missed opportunities, the film finally does engage in this venture only to sequel bait us into another movie. This promise for a better movie next time gives me a Dawn of Justice kind of feel, as not enough time and creativity was put into this movie, and instead the producers focused on a future that might not come to fruition after the crowds that have already given this a 7% on Rotten Tomatoes rip it apart.

People can say what they want about the first two Rings movies, but this one will remind you that if they had anything it was in the dependable range of Naomi Watts channeling a woman whose vulnerability horrified audiences when we put ourselves in her shoes. She is GREATLY missed here. So what are we left with? Some of arguably the dumbest and underwritten characters that make up an ensemble cast. What’s funny during the first act is this movie even announces aloud to the audience how easy it would be to end this Samara curse, with temporary self-sacrifice playing a vital importance to survival. So where and why doesn’t that work? Because plot, that’s why. One such girl knows her time is up and sees Samara coming for her through a television set, only to sit there frozen instead of running away and making some attempt at survival. As for the lead protagonists in Lutz and Roe, they leave a little more to be desired in emotional delivery. Lutz has zero logic for why she is the chosen one to Samara’s plan, and has one face whether he’s happy or sad throughout the entirety of the film. Roe feels like he would be one of the first victims in any stronger horror movie, omitting a blank stare sure to kill any audience or cinematic momentum. Thankfully Vincent D’Onofrio does show up to as a historian of sorts to Samara’s curse. Where his character’s arc goes is quite an interesting one because it more-than rips off a popular Summer favorite film from 2016. Perhaps yet another reason why this movie was shelved?

All the craze from horror movies lately have marketing campaigns with such genius as “Don’t say it, don’t think it”. If Rings adds anything to this troupe, it’s in the idea that the audience should follow these characters and do anything to keep from watching this tape. It’s an uneventful, uninspired, insomnia cure of a series that has gone on for three films too long. This is one sequel that does little with its capabilities to adapt to something fresh, instead settling for rehashed mythology from its infamous antagonist to present some confusing plot holes from earlier lessons. VERDICT- Easily the worst of the trilogy

3/10

The Space Between Us

Something completely out of this world is about to crash on Earth, altering The Space Between Us. In this interplanetary adventure, a space shuttle embarks on the first mission to colonize Mars, only to discover after takeoff that one of the astronauts is pregnant. Thus begins the extraordinary life of Gardner Elliot (Asa Butterfield), an inquisitive, highly intelligent boy who reaches the age of 16 having only met 14 people in his very unconventional upbringing. While searching for clues about his father, and the home planet he’s never known, Gardner begins an online friendship with a street smart girl in Colorado named Tulsa (Britt Robertson). When he finally gets a chance to go to Earth, he’s eager to experience all of the wonders he could only read about on Mars, from the most simple to the extraordinary. But once his explorations begin, scientists discover that Gardner’s organs can’t withstand Earth’s atmosphere. Eager to find his father, Gardner escapes the team of scientists and joins with Tulsa on a race against time to unravel the mysteries of how he came to be, and where he belongs in the universe. The film is directed by Peter Chelsom, and is rated PG-13 for brief sensuality and adult language.

The Space Between Us is at best a solid idea about the isolations of growing up on a planet without people or basic experiences for a teenager to live without. Its reliance upon the importance of technology and the kind of advances that it gives us for making a more intelligent and even enhanced human being are greatly depicted in the film, and don’t go without polarizing contrasts when compared to Earth counterparts. At worst though, this is a film that spontaneously combusts on a wannabe Nicholas Sparks teenage romance novel, in conjunction with cheesy dialogue and some of the biggest lapses in logic that I have ever seen in a Sci-Fi film, and that’s saying something. This is very much a project that chose to be something different for all of the wrong reasons. There’s a passable movie somewhere beneath all of the forced romantic subtext, and the Y.A audience that is was depending upon. Chelsom’s film settles for being just the latest spin in 21st century love being told at an adolescent disadvantage by frustrating characters and lack of any real depth for what makes their romance one for the galaxy.

For the first half hour of this movie, I was very much on board for the setup and themes that made this quite the little science-fiction gem that it could be with a little growth in character development and the unlocking of many mysteries that were set up early on. The very idea of this baby who was born and forced to live in a kind of prison of sorts for the entirety of his life is one that is certainly easy enough to get behind and invest in, but what added that extra layer of intrigue for me was the attempt at breaking down some health concerns between the environments of Mars versus Earth. This is where the movie feels at its strongest because it is showing us a variety of foreign lifestyles and technology that seem advanced even for 2017 standards. From transparent laptops to self-driving cars, The Space Between Us gives us that brief glimpse into a prosperous future where it feels necessary to dream again, complete with detailed set pieces that really make it simple to lose yourself in the rich tapestry of the Mars red-rocks in all of its imposing stature.

Once you’ve reached the half hour mark, you should understand that it’s at that point where you’ve reached the creative peak of this movie, because instantly the film goes back on everything that it has built for a flimsy love narrative that not only feels forced, but feels emotionally awkward for the lack of chemistry and character spark of our two central protagonists. I will get to the performances later, but the vast difference in real life age between Britt Robertson (27) and Asa Butterfield (19) made it very hard to invest and feel moved by their time spent together on-screen. If anything, the two feel like brother and sister kissing, albeit with Butterfield’s undeniably youthful exterior and Robertson’s adult personality that feels anything except the high school characters that she still finds herself being cast for. Her character comes off as a badass for some reason, but then is instantly turned into the same cliche female that you always see in romance flicks. Apparently Chelsom feels my pain about their concern for physical differences based on age because midway through he gives Robertson a baby doll dress to signify her high school side, further alienating her character from the Tom-boy tough chick who we were force-fed in her opening exposition scenes. If this isn’t enough, the film completely comes to a screeching halt during this time, with shoddy pacing, as well as making an antagonist of sorts out of Gary Oldman’s character. This idea is made even more inane when you see where all of the characters finish by the end of the movie, and highlights the second act of the movie as a sore thumb that sticks out ugly against two opposite acts that feel like they’re telling their own genre story.

The finale kicked the absurdity into high gear, and it was at this point that I felt an engulfing lack of care for the rules and themes that the movie had built for itself up to this point. Characters travel to space without so much as a space suit or any kind of breathing devices that would help them adapt to the increase of cabin pressure or lack of gravity that fills the air. There’s also the big reveal to the kind of mystery of sorts that the movie lightly inserted in the first act if you were paying attention. I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t. The plot twist was easily predictable for me, and I’m usually average at predicting these kinds of things. My reason for easily reading between the lines is the forceful reactions from one particular character that radiate in overabundance when compared to everyone else, making it far too simple to read between the lines. It all closes itself up tightly for a finish that is every bit as convenient as it is frustrating at just how much could’ve easily been trimmed from the nearly two hour run time. The worst part of a movie for me is when it drags endlessly, and The Space Between Us rarely reaches orbit after it runs out of ideas midway through.

As for the performances, there sadly isn’t a lot of noteworthy praise in this notable cast. Gary Oldman is probably the one positive in terms of taking a character who is every bit the typical mold for scientist entrepreneurs and making something more out of him. As I mentioned earlier, his character does go through some morale leaps and bounds that feel jarringly forced on the very flimsy suspense that this movie entailed, but Gary is enough of a pro to go to hell and back, and yet still produce a character who is enjoyable to watch for his commitment to craft, as well as his hands-on approach of this boy’s life since watching him grow. Butterfield does exubberate slightly more enthusiasm for this role as opposed to his past monotonously tone-deaf characters, but it’s still not enough to justify leading man status. As Gardner, we see a teenager who has his eyes opened for the first time at a world he was denied. That fact alone should make this boy fascinating, but Butterfield spends too much time on his one-track mind, meddling through the motions of a relationship that he feels far too at home with, despite a severe lack of female intimacy for the first sixteen years of his life. Robertson is once again playing the same character as she has in films like Tommorrowland, A Dog’s Purpose, and Mr Church. Hollywood has seemed to typecast her as this unorthodox female teenager who can give and take with her male counterparts, but then silences her into the typical female love interest that feels like a checklist of endless cliches. Robertson has talent, but she has to start venturing out of her comfort zone.

There’s an undiscovered lifeform of potential deep within the subtext of The Space Between Us, but its reliance upon a romantic direction that offers little fresh in the way of Young Adult novels, rips the oxygen fast out of this one. It’s a slow paced, unintelligent Sparks immitator that hangs in the balance of two protagonists who have as much romantic chemistry as two people who met for the first time on FarmersOnly.Com. As it stands, Chelsom’s infatuation with Indie favorites prove to us that this story feels expired before it hits the ground, time-stamping it with the others in a post-Twilight garbage can.

3/10

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

The final remains of the T-Virus return us to the scene of the origin, in Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. Picking up three weeks after the events in Resident Evil: Retribution, humanity is on its last legs after Alice (Milla Jovovich) was betrayed by Wesker (Shawn Roberts) in Washington D.C. As the only survivor of what was meant to be humanity’s final stand against the undead hordes, Alice must return to where the nightmare began; Raccoon City, where the Umbrella Corporation is gathering its forces for a final strike against the only remaining survivors of the apocalypse. In a race against time Alice will join forces with old friends, and an unlikely ally, in an action packed battle with undead hordes and new mutant monsters. Between losing her superhuman abilities and Umbrella’s impending attack, this will be Alice’s most difficult adventure as she fights to save humanity, which is on the brink of oblivion. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is written and directed by Paul W.S Anderson, and is rated R for sequences of violence, as well as some adult language.

For someone who has written and directed all seven efforts of the Resident Evil franchise, Paul W.S Anderson seems to have selective memory about the film’s rules and history that feels trampled on after the latest effort known as The Final Chapter. Going into this movie, I wasn’t expecting a lot of bang for my buck. My expectations were cast pretty low; strong action sequences and a furthering of the story that capped of fifteen years with Alice and her friends. Ultimately, both of my expectations were sadly missed, as this is in my opinion the very worst of the franchise by a wide margin, and a lot of that is because of Anderson’s careless methods to provide fans with the goodbye that they deserve. The film has a plot twist near the end of the movie that is not only predictable because of how little they do to hide the identity of this mysterious Umbrella worker, but also how little it makes sense with histories established in the first two films. These aren’t forgivable plot contrivances, these are MAJOR flaws that would only take Anderson watching these movies to refresh what he has established about certain characters. Picture a Jason movie where they flashback to something that happened in the second movie, only to show Jason wearing the wrong color and dying by a different way. It’s truly mind-shattering how far this series has fallen, and just how little this whole thing has to do with any of the respective video games that they borrow plot from.

If there is one positive, it’s that this movie at least feels like a video game. Not so much a movie, but a video game because of how it has very minimal plot and lots of weapon re-ups, as well as conflict scenes in a new backdrop with each passing minute. On the first of those issues, The Final Chapter feels like more of a continuance for something like Retribution or Afterlife, instead of its own movie. With the previous efforts, each movie revolved around its own growth for each of its characters, while establishing a setting that felt fresh for each chapter. This is very much a time and place that we have endured before in much better circumstances with the original Resident Evil. That movie, while not perfect by any standards, at least keys you into what makes these throwaway popcorn flicks exciting in their own element. The introduction here of this anti-virus comes out of nowhere. At no point in six other films did we ever key in to any kind of solution for the problems that have engulfed this world, and the introduction now feels very lazy in creating a suitable solution that fans will believe. This is a movie at 101 minutes that constantly keeps moving, never choosing to slow down to tell the story of what happened in Washington during Retribution, or establishing its fresh faces to the audience. At this point, there’s not enough patience or commitment to cast these people as anything but bodies in the way of Alice reaching her final destination, therefore your investment feels minimal and even tiresome at the repetition in setup, attack, and kill. Wash, rinse, repeat.

The visual presentation was perhaps the biggest flaw that the film entails because the camera styles don’t remain faithful to the style of shooting that we have come to love from this series. If there is one positive that I can say for this series, as well as The Final Chapter itself, is that it conjures up some artistically beautiful choreographed fight scenes that always reach their mark in channeling the video game profiles of each attack scene. This was the single greatest strength of this movie that unfortunately gets weighed down pretty quickly by some of the arguably worst action sequence depictions that I have ever seen. I recommend highly that you watch this movie at home in a lighted environment because your eyes will be kicking your ass by film’s end. The fight scenes are lit poorly, shot far too closely, and (Most importantly) involve an overburden of quick-cuts to ever keep you from registering what is transpiring on screen. Not since last year’s Jason Bourne have I truly felt such pity and despair for how a film chooses to style its bread and butter. I compare the visuals to watching a bootleg copy of a movie on your computer, where you have to squint to register the poor quality of a camera illegally filming a movie. Truly horrifying on the eyes and less on your actual fright for the creativity in creatures and zombie designs alike that the movie could’ve used more emphasis on visually.

As for returning cast, I was sadly disappointed at just how little involvement there actually was for the time invested characters of past films who were left off of the slate. Chris Redfield, Asa Kong, and Jill Valentine are three characters whose presence are greatly missed in a sea of fresh faces that never have time to establish character arcs or traits to make them any different from the people to the right or left of them. The only familiar faces are that of Alice, Claire Redfield, Albert Wesker and Dr Isaacs. The focus is mainly on that of Alice and Isaacs, leaving Wesker off of the page for a final showdown or satisfying climax to the polarizing figure that we have come to love and hate equally. This is a major disappointment because there’s much chemistry that is left off of the pages of the script between Alice and Isaacs that just doesn’t measure up to some of her previous enjoyable entanglements with that of Valentine or Wesker. When you look at the bigger picture of all seven films, it feels like these movies were constantly building to something bigger and better that just never materialized. The ending of this film felt far too easy and neatly tucked away for a fifteen year investment, settling for a goodbye to its antagonists in the most cringe-worthy and logic-infuriating methods to storytelling that missed their mark tragically. Wesker’s ending in particularly was the final gasp of hope that left my body for a once prosperous saga of video game adaptation.

The Last Chapter for Resident Evil is a welcome one because it displays just how off-the-mark the series has twist and turned from being a simply admirable zombie epic through the streets of Raccoon City. If you’ve held on for this long, I can imagine that the passionate fans of this story will like this movie all the same, but Anderson’s latest lacks any real bite to grab the attention of new audience, and The Last Chapter will go unread for plenty of fans who found the antidote to Paul’s stretching of liberties years ago.

3/10

Monster Trucks

A youthful mechanic changes truck racing for the stranger extraterrestrial, in Monster Trucks. Looking for any way to get away from the life and town he was born into, Tripp (Lucas Till), a high school senior and loner, builds a Monster Truck from bits and pieces of scrapped cars. After a freak accident at a nearby oil-drilling site displaces a strange and subterranean creature with a taste and a talent for speed, Tripp may have just found the key to getting out of his dead-end town and a most unlikely friend in a flexible alien who is able to bend and distort his body to fit into Tripp’s newest gas-fueled hog. Monster Trucks is directed by Chris Wedge, and is rated PG for action, peril, brief scary imagery, and some rude humor.

What kind of positive product can you design with 125 million dollars? Quite simply, a Masterpiece. When you look at some of the biggest action thrillers of the last few years, most of them don’t even come close to that ridiculous figure. So what does Monster Trucks have to restore our faith in the American dollar? It turns out not much at all. This is very much a wasted effort on nearly every end of the theatrical spectrum, despite a big name cast that somehow got roped into this charity project against their will. Could that be the answer to the big 125 million dollar question? Did Rob Lowe, Danny Glover or Barry Pepper make the biggest payday of their lives to sell their souls to a higher power? It would certainly justify the theory, because there’s very little positive or reaping reward to this laughably bad project that Chris Wedge has manifested. Monster Trucks feels like 90’s cheese at its piping hottest, and that predictable formula for subplots and animal co-stars that were the hit twenty years ago has managed to find a place again in modern cinema, despite waning interest in it. This was a movie that sat on the shelf for nearly four years after its production wrapped, and it’s clearly evident in nearly every area of the movie that can’t even hit a foul ball off of an underhanded pitch.

The cast is mind-blowing. I mentioned earlier about the trio of actors that got plucked from their respectable careers for something like this, and sadly the juice doesn’t justify the squeeze with any of them, because they are such a small part to this movie. One of the two positives that I had for this film is that it is a pretty solid, albeit terribly miscast ensemble, and there’s certainly some fun to be had for these actors figuratively hurling gas on the fire that was once their careers. When I think of miscasting, I think of actors who are in roles that they have no business being in. One fine example is Rob Lowe as a Southern accent oil tycoon who shows up when he wants to make a paycheck. Lowe is seriously in the movie for about ten total minutes, and the film decides to cast a new villain along the way because of his lack of involvement in the script. How about the other side of the conflict? Lucas Till (26) and Jane Levy (27) are the central protagonists for the movie. Both of them playing high-schoolers against a backdrop of young faces and children that had me laughing every time they cut to a school shot. Thankfully, the school is only shown twice in the movie, otherwise my laughter would’ve ruined a movie for a lot of people. To even try to suspend disbelief in thinking that these two are high-schoolers is absolutely unthinkable. I could see if Till’s character was a moron and maybe got held back ten years in a row, but his character is beyond intelligent with the things he does with automobiles. One of the tremendously awful lines of dialogue in the movie is Levy’s character reacting in shock, “Wow!! You are smart”. Levy looks like Drew Barrymore in Never Been Kissed. If this is feasible on this planet, then surely they could’ve cast Ellen Burstyn or Helen Mirren. Why not?

Then there’s the story. If there’s one positive that I have to say for this aspect, it’s that the movie does have personality. There were times where I forgot what I was watching and got some occurances where I could laugh AT the movie. This is still a negative of sorts because nobody likes their work to be laughed at, but the fact that I could get something out of a bad movie is what will always separate it from the worst of the worst. Other than this, there’s never a moment when you forget that this is a kids movie because implausible scenarios are everywhere. Lets forget for a moment that a monster who can barely move can command a car. Lets think more about the fact that he smashes through walls and cars by himself without any machine, then we are asked to believe that his siblings can be held prisoner by being stuffed in plastic hampers with very little structure or security. HUH? Lets follow that up by talking about how the trucks never fall apart despite jumping on buildings or off of mountains. Not to take away from the 90s aspect however, with a pointless subplot of a school bully who only shows up a few times to spout lines like “That truck looks like a truck took a dump……yeah, that’s what it looks like”. This kid isn’t a central antagonist or anything, it’s just to remind you that this is a high-school story even after you’ve already disbanded it as anything but. So what is the villain’s motivation you ask? Well it’s a big, bad oil company that has no motivation what so ever to see these monsters dead. They could just continue drilling oil and making a fortune, but the movie needs them to be bad and hunt these creatures down, so we can have some kind of conflict. I’ve got a headache.

I couldn’t possibly write this review though, without the visuals that scream 125 million dollars. The 3D is one of the most pointless additions that I have ever endured. There’s nothing of any eye-popping or visual beauty to justify its existence, so my theory is they added it to try to chip away at making back some more of that massive budget. This movie also has severe continuity constraints that proves even the production team couldn’t take this seriously. One fine example of the many is the introduction scene between Till’s character and the monster, where the latter is seconds away from being smashed by a junk yard grinder. The monster escapes, the grinder goes all the way down, and in the very next scene, the grinder is back up top to its starting position. Think that’s the kicker? think again. The next shot shows the grinder all the way down in crushing position paused, which means only a button press could launch it back up. What were they thinking? The CGI though, is perhaps my biggest flaw with the movie. I can give them a round of applause for at least rendering the color and shadow of the creatures accordingly to match the backdrops and human co-stars faithfully. It only took 125 million dollars, but what the hell. My problem is more about hit detection for these computer animated slugs. One thing that I like to do with CGI characters is see the reaction to the live action things they touch and interact with. Take the monster touching Till’s t-shirt, and how there’s no imprint or wrinkle to convey that it is being touched. Lets go bigger. Take the dirt surface of the junkyard when one of the tentacles of the monster is being dragged along it. Is there a line in the dirt to show his interaction? NO!!! of course not. Apparently this monster has no feel to it because its physicality is non existent amongst the things it touches. Treating kids like idiots since the early 20th century.

Monster Trucks isn’t the worst 90 minutes that I’ve spent over the last few months, but it does remind me why I shutter every time I think about January and the horrors that it beholds from effortless voids like this one. This monster clearly has no teeth to its material or production, and Wedge’s film was better left in the 2014 closet where it belonged, free from destroying the careers of Till and Levy who could do better work in their sleep. But as far as spending goes, Monster Trucks is a far better way to burn through 125 million dollars than say giving to a charity or building something great. I found thirty of it, but were still looking for the other ninety-five.

3/10