Friday, 16 December 2016

'Rogue One' (2016) Review: Hey Did You Know Star Wars Had A Death Star?

Big Screen Watch:  'Rogue One' is greater than the sum of its parts, with a finale that easily justifies running out to see it.
Set very nearly before ‘A New Hope’, ‘Rogue One’ tells the story of a group of rebel underdogs as they attempt to gain the plans to the Death Star that were such a crucial plot point, nearly 40 years ago. To that end, much of ‘Rogue One’ feels so much like what you’ve seen before, but in an entirely new light. Somewhat.

For starters, since ‘Rogue One’ is situated so nearly before the first ‘Star Wars’ film, painstaking time and effort has gone into emulating the feel of the futuristic 1970s. There’s an air of authenticity, right down to the outdated display on the ship computer screens. While this tasteful recreation is impressive to say the least, it pales in comparison to the more innovative work found in ‘Rogue One’.

Innovation #1: Shooting an AT-ACT with a rocket launcher
Director Gareth Edwards is known for his work with giant monsters, and he’s brought that unique eye to ‘Star Wars’. Edwards captures the scale and vastness of space in epic fashion, but then brings the focus down to a more intimate, human eye. Giving these scenes this personal context makes you feel claustrophobic & frightened yet exhilarated, and perhaps best captures what it would be like in an intergalactic war.

But as much as you experience the film from the character’s level, I’m afraid I had trouble connecting with them. Mainly the main character, Jyn Erso, whose story of jaded rebel turned freedom fighter was a little bland for my tastes. Thankfully with an ensemble cast like this one, you’re treated to a vast array of characters to cling on to. Some of them feel more like action figures than characters, but it’s a delight to have characters that are colourful, in more than one sense of the word.

No that's not dirt, there's just people of colour in the new Star Wars. Crazy right? Okay there's a little dirt too. 
With so many prequels these days opting for their own re-imagining and a soft reboot of their franchise, it was kind of a trip to have 'Rogue One' go the way it did. I mean, you know the ending. They get the plans to the Death Star. Having said that, 'Rogue One' doesn't lean on its connection with the other films too heavily. There's no mention of a Skywalker, or any grand destiny. Really the movie tries to give life to the war that's being fought. By showing you a lot of death on the battlefield.

There are moments where 'Rogue One' can't help itself. Shoehorning in moments that are honestly a little distracting. I suspect when a filmmaker gets a chance to make a 'Star Wars' movie, they just have to throw in something from their childhoods. It's nowhere near as egregious as in 'The Force Awakens' though, which mixed story moments with nostalgia which tastes good at first, but leaves a bad aftertaste.

A spoonful of nostalgia makes the bad storytelling go down.
In the end, 'Rogue One' is a fine movie. Its first act is muddled, and unevenly paced, but gets exponentially better as it goes on. The dialogue isn't remarkable, except for being a little cringey at times, but it's nowhere near bad. I'd say the film did a lot more right than it did wrong, because the things it did wrong are so easily ignored. At least in my judgement.

Leave it to ‘Star Wars’ to bring together an audience of children playing with light-sabers, adults with full time jobs, and teenagers finally finished with exams, all together to scream and cheer at the screen. ‘Rogue One’ may not be the best ‘Star Wars’ film, but it certainly captivates an audience in the same way, and is worth the full price of admission for the final 20 minutes alone.

Rating: Big Screen Watch

Thursday, 8 December 2016

'Office Christmas Party' Review (2016): Office Space X

Half Price: Some jokes work more than others, but the movie is so light on the party itself, it just feels half baked.
For many people, the annual office Christmas party is a droll experience. No one really wants to be there, and it somehow turns the joyous event of Christmas, into a sad lonely affair. ‘Office Christmas Party’ is for those people. It’s an escapist fantasy that brings the reckless and wild goings on of ‘Project X’, to the cubicle rebellion of ‘Office Space’.

The story follows the company of Xenotech. It doesn’t really matter what the company does, all that matter is Clay, played by the irreverent TJ Miller runs a failing branch of it. After his big sister Carol, played by Jennifer Aniston, threatens to shut down his business, Clay decides to throw the Christmas party to end all Christmas parties. He hopes that his efforts will win the interest of an investor, save his company, and the jobs of all his employees in the process.

Your secret Santa gift is: Job security!
‘Office Christmas Party’ does its job well. It has characters that fit the people you see in an everyday work environment, and it tries to put them in funny situations. Those situations can be low brow, like the HR person who uncontrollably farts in nervous situations, or they can be quite clever, with quips that play on the frustrations of office politics. With jokes that range from the silly to the cerebral, ‘Office Christmas Party’ never loses its genuine voice, making it feel like in the writers room, all jokes were created equal.

Unfortunately it seems like ‘Office Christmas Party’ had too many ideas in that room. Many a time in the movie reference will be made to something happening at the party that is infinitely more interesting than watching Jason Bateman & co. fumble around trying to arrange for their company to be saved. Truthfully, while the segments of the Christmas party you do see have some genuinely laugh out loud moments, the movie treats it as an afterthought, rather than the main event.

I feel bad disparaging the movie for focusing on plot rather than spectacle, but honestly, spectacle has its purpose. I definitely appreciated everything the film was trying to say about downsize culture, and sanitization of office relations. It never delivered these ideas through preaching and everytime they were touched on, it felt natural. That said, the movie presents the Christmas party as its stand against those very things, yet keeps you away from the party. You feel like the guy running the party, making sure everyone's having a good time, but never at the party yourself.

A feeling I know all too well
The movie did make me laugh, and I never felt like any of the talent in the cast was wasted. Everyone was on point, and had characters tailor made for their abilities. Who else could play the middle aged man frustrated at being told what he can or cannot say without feeling creepy than Rob Corddry. I also loved Kate McKinnon as Corddry's adversary. Her uptight HR woman is mainly there to be a buzzkill, but McKinnon is a riot, even when she's supposed to be sucking the fun out of everything.

Kate McKinnon. So talented she'll make a still image feel like a GIF. 
To say that ‘Office Christmas Party’ was a satisfying experience, is only a half truth. While it definitely is firing on all cylinders, doesn’t always hit its target. It’s definitely a movie enhanced by a cinema viewing with a big audience, and it has enough in it to feel that escapism it tries to deliver. Just don’t be surprised if you end up wanting to leave the party early.

Rating: Half Price

This isn't the first R rated comedy of the year, but it's far from the best. We looked at some of our favourites ever on the podcast:

Thursday, 1 December 2016

'Sully' (2016) Review: Soft Landing

Half Price: Perfectly good movie, that you should seek at a discount
As a fairly young, but avid viewer of motion pictures, many of the movies that are based on true stories, are stories I either don’t remember or wasn’t alive to see. However in the ever flowing stream of time, events continue to occur, and then are recreated to be enjoyed from the comfort of the cinema. Recently, there was ‘Captain Phillips’ and now ‘Sully’. Both films about Captains surviving a 2009 tragedy, and both starring Tom Hanks. Go figure.

As long as middle aged white men get into tragedy, this man will have work.
‘Sully’ of course is the story of the 2009 forced water landing in which Captain Chesley Sullenberger (It’s a wonder he chooses to be called Sully) landed a commercial airplane with 155 people on board, after both engines failed, on the Hudson River. A story like that is amazing on its own, but is the movie any good? Well yes, but I’m not certain I needed to see it.

‘Sully’ is a movie that suffers from its publicity. The sequence of the landing itself is thrilling, and it makes for an incredibly immersive portion of the film, but it’s only a fraction of the runtime. The rest of the movie looks at Sully himself. Tom Hanks gives a, well, sullen performance, as a man who’s suddenly thrust into fame, while dealing with an investigation of the incident. The film attempts to create tension in that investigation of the landing, but it comes across as artificial. The type of dramatic re-imagining you expect from a Hollywood movie, that pushes it into a sort of real life fantasy.

Hanks’ performance is layered, and gives Sully a humanity that helps reconcile his seemingly superhuman feat. There’s a clear attempt to make Sully as ordinary as possible, complete with incomplete house payments and other financial struggles. It’s a little undercut though at the end of the film when you get a clip of the actual Captain, who is so gentle and kind he makes Tom Hanks look like Clint Eastwood.

It's like a live action Animorphs movie 
The film is well cast and well acted all around. but it’s naturally more interesting if you weren’t at least somewhat familiar with what took place 7 years ago. For those that were, it’s a decent character study of the humanity behind the people we so quickly turn into celebrities in this internet age, where every action is analysed and under scrutiny.

P.S Major props need to go to Aaron Eckhart for his superb moustache, whose face fuzz eclipses the main man himself. Make no mistake, Hanks' moustache game is on point, but it's nowhere near the beast that occupies the space directly below Eckhart's nasal cavity. His thick, musky, forest of lip hair is a feat, and easily takes the cake for best moustache of 2016. If you only see one moustache at the movies this year, make it Eckhart.

Eckhart takes it. Hands down. 

Movie Rating: Half Price
Moustache Rating: GOAT

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

'Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them' (2016) Review: Newt Scamander: Beast Detective.

Half Price: Half this movie is worth your time, the other half won't get pay off until 2018 the earliest.
5 years since the last iteration of the Harry Potter franchise, and audiences just couldn't seem to escape the Wizarding World. 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them' is the latest multi million dollar nostalgia trip in the same vein as 'The Hobbit' and 'The Phantom Menace'. Those films though, came at least a decade after the original franchises. It doesn't seem that long since I left the halls of Hogwarts, but nevertheless, I was happy to be go back, but I'm not exactly happy I went.

'Fantastic Beasts' is actually an entirely new story, at least to everyone except author JK Rowling, who takes her first crack at screenwriting with this film. Book fans and movie fans alike can walk hand in hand through the cinema doors, and finally enjoy the film in harmony. Just in time for Christmas. This time, the film follows Newt Scamander. He specializes in the study of the titular fantastic beasts. You follow him as he attempts to recollect his very dangerous, very magical creatures, that have managed to get out of his mystical suitcase, and are wreaking havoc on a 1920s New York City. Newt Ventura: Pet Magician

"Aaaaaalrighty then, cheerio!"
Each of the creatures Newt chases down are thrilling, creative, and gave me the same sense of wonder that was such an important element of the earliest Harry Potter films. It also had much of the quirk of those films. Suddenly, as Eddie Redmayne performed a mating dance to lure a bio-luminescent rhino looking beast away from a hippo that was about to get not so lucky, I felt I understood this film immensely. Okay the Ace Ventura parallel is a little too real now.

Newt Scamander has a greater love for animals than people, perhaps because they haven't exactly shown him the kindness that animals do. Redmayne was not nearly as annoying as I expected him to be. He was far more somber, with surprising bits of heart, especially when his beloved creatures were threatened. A standout in the cast is Dan Fogler, a human who gets swept up in the world of magic, who's performance is so endearing, that I wouldn't have minded seeing this film entirely from his point of view.

Aside from the beasts and their whereabouts, the movie gives its version of a troubled 1920s New York. There's a growing sentiment that perhaps the people of Salem were onto something, and that witches do in fact live among the muggle kind, or "No mag" kind as they're called in the United States. Naturally, Newt and his beasts only elevate that troubling sentiment, causing the powers that be a fair degree of nervousness. Much like the X-Men universe, a world of people with amazing physics denying abilities, live in fear of stigmatization.

It's not easy being amazing.
Such is the beauty of Fantastic Beasts. It lets you have your cake with a mesmerizing look at just how many monsters Newt has in his Poke-case, as they live peacefully in their respective habitats, each more magical than the last. It also gives you a side of food for thought, in its post war, prohibition era environment. That environment gives way for multiple allegories. Key in this film is Ezra Miller's Creedence, a young wizard who suffers from withholding his magical abilities, unable to channel his true identity. Wheras the Harry Potter films had such great emphasis on a grand story of good vs. evil, keeping away the dark wizard boogey man, 'Fantastic Beasts' is a film that for a large part of it, is simply a thrilling and well thought out expansion of the world we've already been to.

And it was all going so well.

Unfortunately nothing gold can stay, since this foray into wonder and delight is unfortunately marred by the same thing that plagues everyone of these prequel franchises from middle earth, to a galaxy far far away: sequel baiting, and unnecessary connections to the original property. The movie presents a side plot in which Colin Firth's character wonders why he must hide his powers from humans, since clearly humans are the one's being protected.

Someone call Magneto, I think his motivation's been stolen.
That boring, been done, subpar magneto, eye roll inducing story is so uninteresting to me, especially when it shares the screen with creatures I can't begin to comprehend how they work. Truthfully, it's a damn shame. As much as I might love the best parts about this film, I'm almost certain that the four films that are to follow this one, will focus on the parts I liked the least. It's not simply because it's been seen before, (like in X-Men first class, a prequel that also took place in a less than open minded time in America's history), but it's included entirely for the purpose of seeding a story that will only later come to fruition. Even in this very film the ending to the plot that's been so shrouded in mystery lands like a wet towel. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, only to realize the movie had tied its laces and walked out the door saying "see you next time" with a shit eating grin.

I suppose this is the movie the half price rating was invented for, since only half of it is worth seeing. One half of the movie, the one that's been promised by the title, is captivating, interesting, and provides the absolute best 3D visuals I've seen in a live action movie to date. I haven't had the genuine sensation of reaching out to touch what was coming out of the screen, in about a decade. The other half is bland, overly mysterious, and undercuts the film it's a part of, by serving a line of unshot sequels no one really asked for.

Rating: Half Price. 

I'm a big fan of the Harry Potter series, so me and a few friends did a podcast about them recently, and we poked fun at it a little bit too

Sunday, 27 November 2016

'Almost Christmas' (2016) Review: A Well Cast Bad Ensemble

Catch It On Cable: See it in a year for free when it inevitable runs on cable.
Despite being declared “Most wonderful time of the year”, Christmas has its fair share of critics. Truly, some people don’t enjoy agonizing over the perfect gift, and then spending money on it, for people, that they don’t really care for. That last bit is at the heart of ‘Almost Christmas’, a movie that tries to capture the awkward tension inherent with family gatherings. Isn’t Christmas grand?

For the record: Christmas is awesome. Stop being a Grinch.
For all its attempts at emulating a complex family dynamic, ‘Almost Christmas’ mostly misses the mark. Danny Glover’s Walter is the patriarch of a big family, whose members bring not only their luggage, but all their baggage too. Baggage that seems a little too familiar. There’s the dad that works too much, the sisters who’ve hated each other since they were little. Every character in the film is instantly recognizable, which makes it fairly easy to figure out where everyone will end up when the cameras stop rolling.

Predictability doesn’t make or break a film. The most formulaic of films can have several moments that delight and excite. In the case of ‘Almost Christmas’, those moments are few. Much of the humour is reliant on slapstick, like the wacky uncle falling off a roof after trying to fix a broken roof ornament. While hilarious in a cartoon, when it’s a JB Smoove, it’s a little sad, despite Mr. Smoove's well practiced cartoonish expressions.

Master of the looney tune gaze

That's a harsh knock against JB Smoove who is really trying his damnedest in this movie. He's not the only one giving it his all with Danny Glover giving the film's more somber moments the resonance you wouldn't expect from it, and the triumphant return of Mo'Nique whose irreverent performance is the saving grace of the movie. Hopefully her comeback is not marred by the surrounding mediocrity of this movie.

If you find yourself feeling sad more than once in ‘Almost Christmas’ that’s because underneath the so so comedy is a story of a family attempting to make it through the holidays in mourning. It’s the first Christmas since Walter’s wife died, and the movie is full of heartwarming scenes of different characters working through that grief. Sometimes these scenes seem sudden, completely different in tone from the comedic scenes that played before it. Truthfully though, that’s an honest depiction of grief. It sneaks up on people when they least expect it.

Unfortunately, while it shows tremendous pathos towards the subject of death, and the struggle that times of family and togetherness can have when processing it, on the whole, the movie is undercut by a collection of stories and scenes that are mostly expected, yet unsatisfying still. At the time of year when you’ve already spent money you didn’t want to spend, perhaps save what you have left and miss this one. Next year when it comes on cable, put it on so you can avoid talking to those relatives you wish you didn’t have to see for an hour and a half. At the very least Mo'Nique will have you laughing.

Rating: Catch It On Cable

Thursday, 17 November 2016

'Arrival' (2016) Review: Dora For Aliens

'Big Screen Watch': A genuinely well thought out and layered film, worthy of your attention.
‘Arrival’ is what a remake of ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’ by Christopher Nolan would be like. Much like that movie, ‘Arrival’ is a film that shows us a more grounded look at the familiar story of alien invasion. The story takes place in Montana, the location of one of twelve alien ships spread out across the globe. It follows Amy Adams as Louise, a linguist who’s tasked with translating the alien language for the US government. No big deal. Just as long as she can do it, before world powers like China and Russia start having more trust issues than Kanye.

'The Life Of Pablo' Track 12
‘Arrival’ is the latest in a recent crop of hard sci-fi films, like ‘The Martian’, and ‘Gravity’. It’s a story that focuses more on science than fiction. It approaches the subject of alien invasion the way most films treat war and international conflict. Taking its time to develop the story in a believable fashion. It takes the more detail oriented parts that are typically glossed over, and makes them the driving force of the movie.

Now for many people, that won’t be very appealing. ‘Arrival’ is very much a slow burn, and its meticulous nature can be daunting if you don’t expect it. Partially because ‘Arrival’ does such a great job at crafting anticipation. Director Denis Villeneuve is a master of modern tension and that’s definitely on display here. Although ‘Arrival’ shouldn’t be classified as a thriller, it certainly has the pacing of one. Here, there's nothing to fear but fear itself. And clowns.

Everyone hates these guys right?
It's shot very much like a thriller as well, but never goes for the shock of one. The audience is gripped with anticipation for what's about to happen because of the structure of these shots. Creeping pans and obscurity. Brilliantly, we learn the lesson of the movie through this style. Because we've been conditioned to expect something scary, we anticipate with fear. The same happens to the characters as they deal with the aliens. They've been conditioned to perceive the strange as a threat, the same way we've been conditioned to perceive those shots as leading up to a jump scare. We expect Norman Bates with a kitchen knife, but really, there's no one outside the shower curtain.

It very much sells the way the characters treat the situation. As much as characters like Louise, and Jeremy Renner's Ian, a scientist brought to study the aliens as well, may vouch for them, they still wouldn't fault anyone for being a little trepidatious. Everyone in the movie seems slightly on edge the entire time, which tends to happen when you have the fate of the world on your shoulders. When the movie does escalate its conflict, it feels earned, mostly because of all the legwork before hand.

This is what happens when you skip leg day.
Personally, I appreciated the way the movie took its time, because it still had so much to say. Watching the way two completely different species interacted from the ground up was mesmerizing. Additionally, I enjoyed what the movie had to say beneath that. The message of abandoning fear and embracing learning is all the more relevant, considering how prevalent and harmful xenophobia is in 2016.

For many people, ‘Arrival’ will be a bore. It’s an unconventional look at this type of film, which usually has more explosions. It’s best to prepare yourself for its slow and steady nature. Give it your patience though, and you’ll be thoroughly rewarded. It’s sad to say it’s a rare sight when a movie has an immensely satisfying ending to a genuinely intriguing beginning.

Rating: Big Screen Watch

Here's an episode of the Take 4 podcast that talks about Aliens, where we actually had an alien on the microphone.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

'Doctor Strange' Review (2016): Just Strange Enough

Big Screen Watch: Certainly a movie that brings enough to the table that it deserves your paid attention
8 years ago Robert Downey Jr. strapped on a high tech red and gold suit and introduced the world to Iron Man. Now, 13 films later, Doctor Strange gives us a movie that continues to expand a universe, that already has gods, aliens, alien gods, and a civil war. Clearly, the heads of Marvel Studios are pushing as much onto audiences until they say when, as Doctor Strange seeks to bring magic & mysticism to the world of the Avengers. You might've thought magic was introduced in the Thor films, but you'd be wrong. Sort of.

Just go with it.
Despite such a diverse array of genres, perhaps the biggest criticism of marvel films is they feel quite similar. Seen one seen them all, with the origin story formula displayed in ‘Iron Man’ applied ad nauseum to films like ‘Ant-Man’ and ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’. I’m of a mind that says if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Plus, similarities among the films could be seen as shameless copying, or thoughtful parallel. It all depends on your mood really.

For all that ‘Doctor Strange has in common with the films that preceded it, I found some aspects of it to be refreshing. The story follows Doctor Stephen Strange, a genius surgeon displaying a familiar brand of arrogance. After a car accident leaves his hands unable to be remedied by the medicine he so covets, he travels east to seek the wisdom of The Ancient One. However, instead of a simple patch job, Strange is brought the secrets of the multiverse, provided he can see past his own ego, which happens to be pretty big, at least bigger than the average guys ego.

At least that's what the ladies say.
That idea of submitting oneself to a greater purpose is at the core of many superhero films. I find that it isn’t always done particularly well. Filmmakers tend to take for granted the fact that you probably know how the story will end, and don’t bother to flesh it out. Opting instead for zany one liners, that are ultimately forgettable. This film however, feels authentic because of the reverence it shows the story. The pacing is solid. You follow Strange in his struggles to look beyond himself, and you feel his arc develop.  

Many times the film will take you on a journey, showing things that defy our concept of reality. It’s far and away one of the most visually interesting films out this year, with a world filled with new concepts that I left the film convinced of, thanks to the compelling visuals. Visuals that help give a version of action magic, different from what’s been seen in films like Harry Potter. A word to the wise to the perpetually inebriated: I'm not saying Doctor Strange is better if you're gone, but I'm not saying it will hurt. Or maybe it will. Further testing is needed.

Open your mind. And don't forget to cough.
For such a new and vibrant world, Doctor Strange never feels bogged down with details. Instead, it opts for blink and you miss it details that are meant to pique your curiosity, quite in the same way for Strange himself. The movie should also be commended for being one that doesn't rely on the tired trope of a maguffin. There are countless relics and artifacts that could've served such a purpose, but the movie invokes stakes without the need for such cheap parlor tricks. This is real movie magic people.

Benedict Cumberbatch plays Stephen Strange with pathos for the somber moments, and provides a wide range of dynamic emotions. Maybe it's because he's British, playing an american doctor, whose injuries increase his arrogance, but I found a lot of Strange's mannerisms reminded me of what Hugh Laurie did with House. It's not like they're dissimilar characters. Both have a playful, charming sarcasm and revel in mocking other peoples intelligence. I kept waiting for Strange to say "Everybody lies" and start sporting a limp.

SEE! Chris Haley gets it
Actors like Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Tilda Swinton elevate the film, with their particular brand of refined extravagance, even if the latter’s ethnicity feels out of place to say the least. I’d highly recommend ‘Doctor Strange’, as a movie that decided to care about what it was trying to be, when so many movies don’t.

Rating: Big Screen Watch

Thanks for reading and if you liked this movie, and were curious about the nature of magic in fiction, we did a podcast about it that can be found here:

Sunday, 6 November 2016

'The Girl On The Train' Review (2016): Just Watch Gone Girl Again

Catch It On Cable: Don't rush out to see it, just stay home. It's safer.
'The Girl On The Train’ is a movie, based on a book, that’s about not judging a book by it’s cover. It tells the stories of three women, each at different stages of their lives. Rachael, the girl on the train herself, pines for the life of the youngest woman, Megan. Megan would do anything to escape the clutches of domestication that is so embraced by Anna. The message then at the end of the day is, no matter what you choose to do, you’ll probably be miserable. A lesson learned in 'Revolutionary Road', when Jack and Rose got to live their happily ever never.

You can either leave him to die in the ocean, or wish that you had.
Now the way it was going, the movie was set to have a strong message about defying the perceived notions of what it means to be a woman, and breaking free of the roles assigned to women by society. Motherhood is no longer the end all be all. Somewhere along the line though, the movie’s message becomes drastically muddled as it goes further down the rabbit hole of a mystery thriller, as one of the three women goes missing.

So all right, it’s not a revolutionary film about modern day feminism, it’s instead a noir thriller. But maybe it’s both? Either way, you look at the case and all of its mysteries through the eyes of Rachael. She’s the main witness to the crime but there’s one problem. Rachael is an alcoholic who frequently can’t remember what took place the night before, so to say she’s an unreliable narrator is an understatement.

This film contains literal narration from an unreliable narrator. It is both grating and unnecessary.
Through this the movie gives you a number of red herrings to keep you guessing about the actual culprit right along with Rachael. Bless your heart though if you can keep up with it. The movie has a tendency to jump back and forth through time, revealing bits and pieces about each of the women’s lives that led them to where they are today. This is designed so that later when your expectations are turned on its head you’re able to gasp in shock and awe, but it’s needlessly hard to follow at times.

If I've said it once I've said it a thousand times. I abhor narration. It's lazy, and at this point exists only for people to complain about it. Though I don't think I've ever been this offended by a narration. The movie begins with Rachael's lament about her life, compared to the lives of the other women in the film, that she guesses about from the train window. The trouble is, as the scene is playing, I muted the narration in my head. It works exponentially better as you read Rachel's face, reacting to what she sees from that window. Then again, I do feel like staring out the window and thinking about the movie that could've been, so I suppose I get it now. 

At first glance, 'The Girl On The Train' bears a striking resemblance to 'Gone Girl'. On the face of it, the title alone, and the bleak aesthetic are enough to trick you. It's only when you delve deeper that it becomes more uncanny. Both feature stories with twists and turns, surrounding a murder mystery in the misery of suburbia. The only difference being, Gone Girl's narrative was captivating, while 'The Girl On The Train' feels like a half baked sequel that no one really wanted.

After the movie ends, you and the people you saw it with are likely to get into what moments shocked you, what you thought of the characters, or when you figured out the plot. That’s what happened outside my cinema anyway. So to that end, the movie is successful I suppose. It’s just not a movie that can’t be enjoyed just as much at home.

Rating: Catch It On Cable

If you're reading this, and you have a movie you absolutely hate, I'd love to hear it. Leave a comment below or just hit me up on twitter @levy_damian

'Boo! A Madea Halloween' Review (2016)

Catch It On Cable: If you don't want to see it, it's bad. If you want to see it, it's still bad, but it's too harmless to hate.
Maybe once it was a good idea. Dress up like the matriarch of a black household, hire hard working black actors and actresses, and write stories that appeal to a group of people who’ve historically been under and misrepresented. On paper, everything Tyler Perry does is not only smart, but it’s also important. At it’s best, you have films like ‘Madea’s Family Reunion’, at it’s worst, you have this film.

Now I know this review is meaningless. Tyler Perry movies attract the type of loyalty that renders any critical analysis of them moot. They get people to see them no matter how bad it might actually be. Having understood that, I still need to say what this movie was to me. Induldge me, if you will.

"It's not that 'The Accountant' is bad, it just really let me down." 
For Boo, A Madea Halloween, Tyler Perry plays a man at the end of his rope. Unable to tame the feral beast that is his rebellious 17 year old daughter. Despite this, he refuses to lay a hand on her. When it seems she has intentions of sneaking out to a college party she has no business going to, he calls in the sternest hand he knows, his dear Aunt Mabel, otherwise known as, Madea.

The first act of the movie, leading up to Madea’s appearance, is palpably grating. How Tyler Perry can be so convincing in the role of Madea, but so tepid playing it straight is baffling. Every performance from anyone not covered in makeup makes the movie feel like a school project. Not to mention, there are scenes that go on forever, reiterating the same jokes and points, that feel like they were pulled directly from a stage show, but were neglected in any form of meaningful adaption for the silver screen, that would suit the format. Running on and on much like that last sentence.

My old arch-nemesis
I’m not going to pretend I didn’t laugh, I did. Not even at how mediocre it was, but genuinely I was made to laugh when I was supposed to. However those moments don’t outweigh the times when I honestly wanted to leave. Clearly this was not a subjective notion, judging by the long stretches of silences in the cinema, at scenes designed for big laughs.

At this point, the idea of Madea is more than played out. I'm gonna need something more than a barrage of jokes that go "HEY IT'S A DUDE IN A DRESS". As much as I'd like that to be the case, there's not a strong sense of a need to innovate in the writers room. Look no further than the scene where Madea exposes herself to a group of frat boys, who then recoil when they realise it's not a halloween costume. Sure you could say that's a fresh take on an old hat, but it's an old ass hat.

Time to throw out the hat man.
The setting isn't put to particularly inventive use either. There's plenty of comedy that can come from exploring the stereotype of black people's superstition. Lord knows every other movie making fun of the horror genre, has a joke about black people staying the hell away from a haunted house. Here, the best attempts at those ideas fall flat. Sometimes literally, with a slapstick punchline.

It’s not a movie that evokes anger, where I’d tell you you’re better off reading a book. Truth be told, it’s harmless enough to be put on in the background, laugh when you’re supposed to and ignore it when you’re not.

Rating: Catch It On Cable

It's clearly been a bad stream of movies recently but once again, here's the episode where we talked about movies we hated. Thank God Doctor Strange is out soon.

'Jack Reacher: Never Go Back' Review (2016) By Naadir Joseph

Read A Book: The wrong way to do a Jack Reacher movie.
There was always something incredibly awesome about the lines he says when the phone rings. The movie starts out in this cool way and leads to a more grounded and human Jack Reacher. Through his travels, he finds more trouble as usual. It is what he does. Ex-Major Jack Reacher, they make that too much of a fact to know, seems interested in Major Turner played by Cobie Smulders and in doing so, hurls himself into a case of espionage.

Along with the espionage, Reacher finds out some unsettling news making him question his humanity and his place in the world throughout the entire movie, excluding the parts when he is in attack mode. There is not much depth to the movie other than that. He is an efficient fighting machine that does get hit now and then, but I felt the more I watched, the more they took away from the mysticism of Jack Reacher.

In the first rendition of the character, he was the guy you don’t mess with as he was just that good. We didn’t need to know more about him. We just wanted him to show off his skills and be the action hero that he was. In the sequel, they changed it up and made him a normal human being. I don’t see anything wrong with this approach as I felt it was a great way to continue with the character. I only have a problem with the execution of the approach.

Throughout the movie, I felt myself urge him forward and ask, “Where’s the man from the first movie? You were such a great soldier and now, you're just this thing I see before me.”

Tom Cruise was not bad in this role as I love him as Jack Reacher. The rest of the acting was kind of flat with the exception being Cobie Smulders. It was the perfect way to start off the sequel and the rest of it was just far away from any plot that could have grounded him. I know one thing is for certain, I will pretend that this movie doesn’t exist and I will enjoy the first one on its own as the beauty that it was.

Rating: Read A Book