Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Darkest Minds First Preview

Giddy with the power of my seemingly magical MoviePass, I went to the movies last night and as always I show up in time for the trailers because it's the polite thing to do. Several thoughts - (1) Ocean's 8 is ever so slowly growing on me. (2) I'm already sold on Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again; so I will gladly stop seeing the preview before every movie. (3) I'm a closet movie snob when it comes to comedies. Night School starring Kevin Hart made me cringe but I know I will in the future be tipsy with friends laughing out loud as we watch it.

The preview that most caught my attention was for The Darkest Minds. The keep it simple plot synopsis is that after children and teens worldwide develop amazing abilities, they are imprisoned by the government. No longer satisfied just to be on the run, one group forms a budding resistance to fight for their survival and find answers. Like so many movies starring the teen set, The Darkest Minds is based on a trilogy of young adult novels. I think it looks visually interesting and as a longtime comic book fan, the storyline is right up my alley. Also, since the next X-Men movies seem mired in reshoots and delays, this could feed my need for an X-Men type story.

The Darkest Minds is set to premier August 3rd.

Breaking In - Home Invasion All Done Up for Mother's Day

You're a movie villain with what you believe is a perfectly laid plan but underestimate the regular folk. Before you know it everything is in tatters, you've lost some of your most accomplished henchmen and you're left with the sinking feeling that you could've gotten away with it if it wasn't for those pesky (fill in the blank). My point? In the words of Shirley Bassey, this is all a bit of history repeating. That is not necessarily a bad thing. The question today is whether Breaking In adds to or diminishes the home invasion movie genre.

After her estranged and wealthy father dies, Shaun (Gabrielle Union) travels with her two children (Ajiona Alexus and Seth Banee Carr) to her childhood home to tie up loose ends which includes selling the house. The house in question is a paranoid person's dream, tricked out with all types of high tech security. I'll pause to point out that ironically but probably for the best there is no literal panic room. What Shaun and her children do not realize is that the house has already been invaded by four men- Eddie (Billy Burke), Duncan (Richard Cabral), Sam (Levi Meaden) and Peter (Mark Furze)- seeking a big payday. In short order, Shaun is locked out of the house with her two kids at the mercy of the dangerous thugs.

Breaking In has all the pluses and minuses of this type of movie. There are little plot holes if you take the time to look too closely, The dialogue goes heavy on driving home the point that you don't mess with this fierce leading lady's children. Also, too many conversations between Shaun and main bad guy, Eddie, go something like this - "You don't know what I'm capable of!"..."Oh yeah, well you don't know what I'm capable of!!". I understand with the target audience why it is PG-13 but it's a bit flat when you have a character say "freaking" rather than drop the F bomb. If I were in this situation you should be advised there would be some creative cursing.

Overall though, this was a slightly silly but enjoyable way to spend some time in the theater. Speaking of time, one my favorite things about Breaking In is a runtime of 88 minutes. It's concise and compact. Why is Shaun estranged from her father? Don't know and in this case that is perfectly ok. My new rule is that unless there is some Thanos finger snapping action, I don't want to spend more than two hours in the theater seat. Sorry, but Avengers' references are still strong with me. I give Breaking In a solid B... actually no make that a B+. The plus is all about Gabrielle Union selling it big time in what I believe is her first all out action role.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Winchester - Truth May Not Be Stranger Than Fiction But Is Definitely More Interesting Sometimes

When I first saw the Winchester trailer back in January, there were reasons for high hopes. Music with high pitch crashing chords, blood running down the walls and a dead eyed child creepily singing an otherwise innocent song. This is the bread and butter of a decent gothic, horror movie. Add in the classy Helen Mirren and the fascinating true story of the Winchester house and you have a good chance of going above and beyond the genre.

Set in 1906, Winchester centers around Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren) who is heir to her husband's fortune built by the invention of the Winchester rifle. Driven by guilt that her privileged life has flourished on the countless deaths caused by her husband's invention, she develops an obsession with spiritualism and an out of this world home renovation project. The Winchester house with it's confounding floor plan, staircases to nowhere and countless false doors is meant to be a final resting place or in some cases a prison for the souls of those killed by the rifle.

Against this backdrop we meet Dr. Price (Jason Clarke), a psychologist hired by the Winchester company to evaluate Sarah with the sole purpose of having her declared incompetent; so that they can take full control of the business. Dr. Price has a troubled and tragic past, a lot of debt and an addiction to laudanum (had to look it up too and it's basically the Victorian version of Oxycontin). He is a skeptic about the whole ghost thing but soon finds himself staggering around the deranged M.C. Esher style house constantly bumping into things that go bump in the night.

I started this review talking about all of the potential and unfortunately have to close by telling you that a lot of it is wasted. The story meanders and the acting talents of Mirren and Clarke are hampered by a sometimes painfully corny script. The deeper story about Sarah's guilt doesn't go deep enough and probably only serves to give uncomfortable chills to NRA members in the audience. What I'm describing plagues about three quarters of the movie but I will concede that the pace picks up and delivers some thrills in the last half hour. It really does feel like somebody injected some cohesion into the script when it all comes together and we find out what is actually going on in the Winchester house. My final score on this is a C. Give it a viewing sometime, knowing that you'll shrug it off pretty easily and not really have interest in repeating the experience.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Ant-Man and the Wasp New Trailer

Still feeling a bit out of sorts about the dark cloud hovering over the Marvel Cinematic Universe after Avengers : Infinity War? Here is a reminder from Marvel that they can still do kooky action adventure. Don't expect any answers to all of your questions though. Released after Avengers : Infinity War, this is actually set before those events. You will be able to enjoy all the fun in theaters July 6th.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Deadpool 2 Final Trailer

Everything just keeps getting better as far as Deadpool 2 trailers. In this final trailer, we get a lot more action, a bit more fleshing out of the plot and are introduced to Deadpool's crew who will accompany him on this zany, reference laden adventure. Best of all, we meet Peter who has quickly become a fan favorite and been affectionately dubbed "Powerless Peter". Deadpool 2 premiers on May 18th

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Rampage - The Rock, A Giant Gorilla, A Giant Wolf and a Giant Alligator Walk Into a Bar.......and Oh Yeah, the Giant Wolf Can Fly

A Quiet Place was knocked out of the top spot last weekend by its complete cinematic opposite. Replacing the quiet but "grip your seat tense" movie experience was a spectacular-spectacular of noise, destruction and giant monsters. I've included a trailer above with Dwayne Johnson having a little fun at his own expense, and some big, dumb fun captures why Rampage succeeds despite the obvious urge to roll your eyes.

What to say about Ramapage's plot? Well there is one fortunately. An evil corporation (darn you, Citizens United) run by siblings Claire and Brett Wyden (Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy) have gotten their hands on a concoction that can "edit" the genetic structure of living creatures in incredible ways. It will take you a quick minute to realize they are not using it for warm and fuzzy purposes. Due to poor planning and an accident, samples of the chemical end up crashing to earth in three different locations and spawn the three monsters. One is found by George, a extremely intelligent gorilla, cared for by Davis (Dwayne Johnson) who works with animals dislocated by loss of habitat and poaching. Mainly he's a big, scary giant of guy with a heart of gold. When the monster chaos busts loose on the screen, the remaining two main characters show up. There is Kate (Naomie Harris), the scientist who developed the genetic editing and got herself in a bit of trouble trying to keep it from being used to create weapons and Harvey (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) who works for a shadowy government agency trying to contain the situation. All of our bad guys, good guys and monsters end up in Chicago for the destruction-fest finale.

Rampage survives or falls on two things - the quality of the abundant amount of CGI and the actors who have to "act" in relation to all of that technologically rendered fake stuff. I have trouble judging CGI but I thought it was really well done here. From the small stuff such as dust particles to the bigger set pieces, I never reached that point where I was knocked out of the fantasy by it all being just too much. Dwayne Johnson flexes his muscles as a natural showman with a knack for comedy; so that's nothing too surprising. His chemistry with Naomie Harris was spot on and never seemed forced. I liked that because I've only seen Harris in pretty weighty fare like Moonlight or Collateral Beauty. Jeffrey Dean Morgan worried me at first because he was talky and smarmy in a way that made me cringe and think "Oh great it's Walking Dead's Negan minus Lucille" but that was dialed back as the movie progressed. So there, I give Rampage and A. It's corny and you might think you're not supposed to enjoy it but I bet you will.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Equalizer 2 First Trailer

A long time ago in a galaxy far away, I was a fan of a TV show called The Equalizer about a seemingly every-man who possessed what we would call today "a special set of skills" and used those to equalize the odds for people in trouble. In 2014 Denzel Washington starred in a movie version and guess what? It was great, hitting all of the right chords for an action movie and had a slightly over the top finale that I refer to as "1001 ways to die in Home Depot". Now there is a sequel.

The new movie appears to have dropped the contained storyline of the original for a more international thriller feel that you might associate with a Bourne movie. Hopefully, the desire to go bigger that is a hallmark for most sequels won't do much harm. The Equalizer 2 starring Denzel Washington, Melissa Leo and Bill Pullman will land in the theaters on July 20th.