Category Archives: Sci Fi

Review: “MOONFALL” (2022) Lionsgate

Going into director Roland Emmrich’s latest film “MOONFALL”, I kept an open mind knowing it was going to be a disaster film of some sort, expecting a dumb fun disaster film with some crazy fun set pieces. What I didn’t expect was it to be the complete disaster that it was.

To be noted, I’m not someone who will intentionally trash a film just for the sake of doing so, but this was just plain bad and there is just no way to sugar coat this plain in-your-face fact. If you go into this movie expecting anything other than cheesy acting and a preposterous story the you will be sorely disappointed.

The film’s premise is simple. The moon’s orbit is changing and making it get closer to Earth, raising the question, can Earth survive? Which doesn’t sound to bad as a whole to make a movie about as we’ve seen it before, but hey, who knows, this might be good right?! But instead the film decides is going to try to offer a cerebral and complex backstory to the moon for some reason, along with at the same time mind you, astronauts Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson), and Jocinda Fowl (Halle Berry), facing an alien while on a space mission singing “Africa” by Toto. Oh and let’s not forget the pill-popping conspiracy theorist KC Houseman (John Bradley), who of course has always wanted to be an astronaut trying to get into NASA and magically does exactly that. Then there is the car chase with Harper’s son Sonny (Charlie Plummer), and him getting thrown in jail, all the while, yes again, all at the same time then they have families that are escaping the imminent demise of Earth with tidal waves and all, mind you they are showing actual real disaster footage of tsunamis along with the inevitable CGI. Not even Michael Peña as step dad Tom Lopez, who is usually a spot on actor, can save this from complete mind numbing disaster. But it hasn’t ended, oh no it hasn’t ended, as a ten minute exposition where Harper ‘learns’ that humans actually originated from a halo ring, but then A.I. rose up and took over nanoparticles to kill humans, so the humans made 1000 moons and flew them to different parts of the galaxy. Say what now?

They literally throw the everything but kitchen sink at you including actual footage of the Endeavor space shuttle supposedly being commandeered out of the California Space Museum so it can be flown to the moon to blow up the bad alien that lives in the middle of it. And don’t get me even started on discussing the lacking of any intelligence dialogue along with just flat out bad bad acting by every single person involved in this film, not even Donald Sutherland coming in for a quick two-liner can help here.

John Bradley as KC Houseman in MOONFALL Directed by Roland Emmerich. Photo Credit: Reiner Bajo/Lionsgate

Of course you know never to take these films seriously, but as well, you do want to have some fun while watching, but instead of even laughing at the absurdity of it all, you will instead just be miserable for two hours and I honestly feel I should award myself, and anyone else points just for making it all the way through this one. I don’t think I could say not worth it in any other way but to simply state “Not Worth It.

Grade: D-

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Review Screening: Wednesday, February 2, 2022 ~ Courtesy of Lionsgate and 42West PR

“MOONFALL” hits theaters Friday, February 4, 2022

REVIEW: “ENCOUNTER” (2021) Amazon Films

Well to say this film went into the unexpected might not quite sum up completely as writers Joe Barton and Michael Pearce, whom directs as well, take us on a road trip journey of science fiction – adding in a very personal side to the lead character, that at first is just thought of as being a crazy person, but it really goes much deeper than that.

Malik Khan (Riz Ahmed) is a ex-Navy Seal/Marine who is on a mission. But not the kind you would think it would be like the ‘too busy saving the world’ kind so he rarely gets to see his sons, who live with their mom Piya (Janina Gavankar), and her new husband Dylan (Misha Collins), but as young boys do, they miss him dearly, and vise versa. One night Malik shows up unexpectedly and persuades his two young sons, Jay (Lucian-River Chauhan) and Bobby (Aditya Geddada), to come with him but won’t explain the urgency of why or where they are going to his them. He has convinced himself and in short, tries to convince his sons that something has happened, something more important than the initial mission apparently, or rather, the ‘mission’ has come to their home.

ENCOUNTER

Malik’s mission as he finally explains it while on the run is this. A comet has brought alien micro-organisms to Earth, and the organisms use mosquitos to transplant themselves into humans where they can manipulate their behaviour. While it might sound far-fetched saying it out loud, think about it, mosquitos do carry things. So in essence he makes it feel very real to them and even somewhat to us, the audience, as he tells his kids, though they might not have observed it first hand, but the aliens had already infected their mom, and it was only a matter of time before she in turn infects them. So Malik is taking Jay and Bobby to a base where they will be safe, while, in the meantime, their mother has reported them missing, and there is an all out alert for Malik for kidnapping. The only person he has trusted so far is the person he has to report and check in with for the past few years, Hattie (Octavia Spencer), and even she is baffled and confused by what he is doing, and while she keeps noting to those hunting for him, how this isn’t really him and he would never hurt his boys. This is where I started to realize what the deeper part of the film was, and it’s clear that Malik is delusional, traumatized and suffering from some sort of PTSD. And it seems the boys are picking up on this as well.

Honestly, Riz Ahmed once again proves once again that he will always pick roles that challenge him and that he somehow pulls off without a blip as he lives up to his reputation of engaging an audience with an intense, committed performance. As well, the kids are scene-stealers with both of the young actors showing real intensity and just the right amount of kid-cuteness to make it all realistic. The long desert cinematography was all quite encompassing aside from the three leads and their obvious chemistry as a family.

This is a hard one to put a label on as yes, it’s Sci-Fi, but it’s underlying tension of what is real and what isn’t, keeps you well alert long after whatever you realize is actually going on. It’s also very much about the bond between a parent and children. It also handles a surprisingly hard subject of PTSD in a such a sympathetic and realistic manner when Hattie is speaking for him, yet the others think he’s going to hurt the kids, it’s done so well, but also in the most different original manner ever. Yet somehow it all works, as there is tension, love, aliens and a road trip all in one film. Colour me Alien-rated as I quite enjoyed this for it’s originality of idea and how that idea was told.

Grade: C+

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Review Screening ~ Courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR

“Encounter” will be in theaters December 3, 2021 for a limited release // Coming to Amazon Prime on December 10, 2021

REVIEW: “I’M YOUR MAN” (2021) Bleeker Street

Not knowing much going into this film, little did I know what a lovely surprise I would be in for in director Maria Schrader’s quirky fun rom-com “I’M YOUR MAN”. Not usually being someone who is fond of the A.I. genre of films and having once been known to say “If I ever find that an A.I. is my my relationship – please slap me”, I found myself thoroughly enjoying this one even though I wasn’t ready for it to be almost entirely in German as well.

Thankfully though – this isn’t my story though as this one is not only better but it centers on esteemed archaeologist/researcher Alma (Maren Eggert), who accepts an offer to participate in an usual experiment in exchange for research funds. She agrees to “beta test’ on a three-week trial run, living with a humanoid named Tom (Dan Stevens), who has been programmed to be her exact ideal life partner. From there, she has to evaluate on the successes and/or failures of the AI prototype to help decide whether they should be introduced into society as potential life partners for well, everyone. During this three week time period, we find ourselves watching things that are essentially very human. Alma is anti-relationship as the film starts to reveal more about her we find she grieves over a miscarriage she suffered during a past relationship and her former partner Julian (Hans Low) is very much around. While Alma is single, she’s not alone – she has a younger sister, Cora (Annika Meier) and an elderly, deteriorating father (Wolfgang Hübsch), who require a lot of her attention in life as well.

Not to be overlooked is the fun CGI of a bar scene of playing itself well on the ‘who is/who isn’t’ a AI or hologram and of course the acting. Eggert is wonderful at playing off the strong, defensive woman she is supposed to be and slowly letting her wall down to open up to the idea of this AI actually being ‘the one’. While Stevens is quite good here as he absolutely crushes it by speaking surprisingly fluent German, that is when he’s not speaking Spanish, French, or Korean and most notably, not a single word of English. He also manages to somehow be a robot, yet convey small emotions such as being flirty, funny, sad and dare I say it – humanistic.

With some funny, snappy, smart dialogue and a well structured storyline “I’m Your Man” moves it all along in a realistic looking manner, while being hugely entertaining as well. There can be huge risk involved with films that tackle themes such as this one, and then be successful at it to boot, but this one was all handled so well and came across as down to earth while also making itself fun and thought-provoking.  

Grade: B+

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“I’M YOUR MAN” from Bleeker Street Films – is in limited theaters on Friday, September 24, 2021

Review Screening ~ Courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR

REVIEW: “A QUIET PLACE PART II” (2021) Paramount Pictures

Sequels. That dreaded word to most – as they usually begin where the original inevitable cliffhanger of it’s predecessor left off. It’s usually a re-hashed, mish-mash of the original film, and rarely if ever, is it as good as the original. Well colour us thankfully out of that sequel slump as “THE QUIET PLACE PART II“, is anything BUT a slouch of it’s original.

This wonderfully woven sequel gives us the briefest of a flash of the past, probably just for old time-sakes to remember where we were, but then with the flick of scene, we are brought to a time we have never seen before. The time before ‘it’ all began that we all really wanted to know about, and answers so many questions in a very short time. Wrapping up it up cleanly on how ‘the Quiet’ came upon them, and giving us our first glimpses of the monsters that we now know, who hunt by sound, like the dropping of a pin or too loud of a breath, and just like that, they’ve got you. And right as we understand the implications, again, with another flick of the scene, we just skip from day one of the invasion to day 474 of the apocalypse, just after mom Evelyn, kills the alien in her home in the first movie that started it all, ‘A Quiet Place‘.

Continuing on, as Evelyn (Emily Blunt), Regan (Millicent Simmonds), and Marcus (Noah Jupe), are forced to venture out and continue traveling on foot with baby Abbott in tow. They enter the fortified compound of old family friend Emmett (Cillian Murphy), who is not nearly as welcoming as they hoped. The family must now face the terrors outside, while continuing their journey and struggle for existence while in complete silence. They also now know some of the vulnerabilities that the aliens are susceptible to as well, like the high-frequency audio feedback from Regan’s cochlear implant hearing aid. But by being forced to venture into the unknown, they realize that these aliens that hunt by sound, aren’t the only dangers they face lurking in the beyond. In a turn of events, Marcus and Regan discover a radio signal that plays the song “Beyond the Sea” over and over on repeat, and after some doing, finally realize the whereabouts of the location it’s emanating from. Regan figures this might be her chance to not just find, but help other survivors that might be stranded as well. But as with everything in a twisty-turning film like this one, there is always going to be that one thing in the narrative that doesn’t really turn out the way you might want or need it to, or maybe it does? And therein lies the fun, brilliance and suspense of it all.

To give away anymore of this film would be to spoil it inherently, and that’s just something to not be done. What can be said is how much a ‘A Quiet Place II‘ does an amazing job of ‘world’ building, to use an odd descriptive of how the locales are made to look deserted and destroyed, with a worn, dilapidated sense to many of them. Along with the places and the practices that must be observed to live in this world help to flesh out this apocalyptic-type setting, just add to the overall feel of the film. There are some imaginative locations and very clever tricks used by everyone in the film to essentially, ‘stay quiet’. This takes thought, oodles of imagination, and is to be appreciated as it adds so much to the sense of tension surrounding our characters. The film is also an acoustical treat for the ears, (ours – definitely not theirs), with great sound and some amazingly detailed, very quiet panic scenes where it made the silence truly all the more deafening. As well, the acting is very good with Simmonds’ taking over as the main lead character, and Blunt playing the strong, albeit, more supporting part. Krasinski, well, he is briefly here at the beginning of our story to tell us why. But it’s truly Simmonds’ who rises to the occasion of being the lead with a fantastic, captivating and compelling performance. Jupe and Hinds, put in some good support here as well, as truly everyone here has a lot to do to just survive, and some of the activities they are forced to do while staying silent are really quite amazing to witness and watch. 

Krasinski divides the action here over three separate narratives, cross-cutting between them to heighten the tension at important points. All the while, he never loses sight of the fact that A Quiet Place Part II – is a horror film, and he keeps the well-crafted scares coming at a steady pace. All in all, Krasinski does the almost impossible here by making a sequel that – dare I say it – is better than the original.

“A”

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Review Screening: Monday, May 17, 2021 ~ Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

A QUIET PLACE PART II” OPENS IN THEATERS NATIONWIDE ON FRIDAY, MAY 28, 2021

REVIEW: “BLISS” (2021) Amazon Studios

To be completely candid here, I’m not really sure what Director Mike Cahill is trying to say or where he is going with “BLISS”, his latest feature coming out on Amazon Prime this Friday, February 5th. In an already overcrowded movie fueled month, along with it being Black History Month, I’ve a feeling this one just isn’t going to find it’s footing with too many audiences. It has a lot of difficulty focusing on what it is Cahill is actually going for. Let me try to explain.

First off, all we can be sure of our lead character is that Greg Wittle (Owen Wilson) is newly divorced and that he misses his family, most particularly his daughter Emily (Nesta Cooper), who is worried about him. His son Arthur (Jorge Lendenborg Jr.), on the other hand, doesn’t seem to care one bit about him or what happens to him in the slightest. We see Greg at work at a seemingly high profile job, yet he’s spends his day drawing pictures of what he envisions as the ‘perfect world’ along with drawings of a woman. Because of this silliness we also see Greg lose his job and end up at the bar across the street where some very odd, crazy things begin to happen.

Enter in Isabel Clemons (Salma Hayek), who seems to know everything there is to know about Greg Wittle in a almost stalker type way, yet he loves this odd fact. She presents herself as the solution to his problems and begins to tell him some fantastical stories that most of the people he sees and the situations he’s in, aren’t real. She tells him over and over that they are just simulations of people/places and simply through the power of his mind, he can make them do all sorts of crazy things like fall down or crash as they are just in his head. He falls for it and they seem to both think hurting others for fun is well…fun. So it seems like they are sadly both just lost in a fantastical world of severe mental health issues and using a specially ‘formulated’ drug as escapism. Except then we find them inside the actual drawings of Greg’s in a whole other Science Fiction type world where they are the actual creators of an alternative society and add in Bill Nye the Science Guy as actual proof of what they have discovered is profound. And that’s the problem here. This film is ALL over the place with itself.

Honestly, you can watch “Bliss” in a number of ways:

Example #1. You can assume that everything Isabel And Bill Nye are saying is true, and then this is a story about parallel worlds.

Example #2. You can see this as a story about the plight of human mental health issues and why so many turn to drugs to find refuge in said fantastical fantasy story also presented.

Example #3. You can even see “Bliss” as an account of how easy it is for the average person anywhere in the world, to fall out of our society norms and end up lost and homeless due to no fault of their own.

In whichever way you choose to see it is your call, but my call is that pretty much all of them won’t be that great and unfortunately, ‘Bliss’ just never comes across anything even remotely profound, as it’s so jumbled and pasted together in a completely non-coherent manner. All the different stories it tries to tell all fizzle out, and the ending is wholly predictable to a shocking degree. The acting performances are just as bizarrely put out there, with only Cooper coming through as a decent performance in this all-over-the-place feature.

Grade: D

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Review screening: Courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR

“BLISS” WILL BE STREAMING ON AMAZON PRIME – FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2021

REVIEW: “THE INVISIBLE MAN” (2020) Blumhouse/Universal Pictures

There is a difference between what makes scary/horror movies well, scary. There is the slasher/gore type that really aren’t scary, but serve a purpose. And there there is the kind that from the very first moment, have you on the edge of your seat/holding your breath type scare. These are the preferred kind. The kind that holds you in it’s grip with every one of your senses tingling in anticipation.  Writer/Director Leigh Whannell’s “THE INVISIBLE MAN” is that movie.

Where James Whale’s masterful 1933 version of H.G. Wells‘ story saw its main transparent character commit murder on a mass scale on a self-proclaimed reign of terror, Whannell’s refreshing take on The Invisible Man, has gone for the opposite approach.  It’s not just jump-scares or loud noises, it’s something psychological. From the opening shot, you’re immediately put inside Elisabeth Moss’ character Cecilia’s head.  The whole opening scene makes you uncomfortable as we see Cecilia trying to make her escape and this kind of tension is kept on throughout the film.

Cecilia Kass (Elizabeth Moss) is a woman living in fear. She is stuck in an abusive relationship and can’t get out of it despite living a life of wealth and privilege in a seaside home; she is ready to take some drastic steps in her life to try to escape from her controlling and abusive husband who despite being considered a wealthy genius in the field of Optics, has made her life a living hell.  All of this combined forces her to make a daring escape that has her barely getting away with the help of her sister Alice (Harriett Dyer).

Picking us up two weeks later – we find Cecilia is in hiding with a friend of her sister’s, Officer James Lanier (Aldis Hodge) and his daughter Sydney (Storm Reid). She is scared to even leave the house and do the most basic of things such as checking the mailbox. All this begins to change (or does it?) when Alice brings Cecilia some information that starts the ball rolling for us all.

So with now having supposedly escaped the controlling relationship, Cecilia’s rehabilitation is cut short by the sudden intrusion of her ex who has figured out how to regain control over her life without anyone knowing how or why.  As it’s around this time that unusual things begin to happen to her. A lost item from the night of her escape shows up, a mysterious kitchen fire starts and lets the audience know to keep their eyes locked on everything as if you blink, you just might miss something cold and calculating happening.  When she expresses her concerns to others that her husband is alive and exacting revenge, and when things begin to escalate, Cecilia is the one who starts to look more and more unstable as the tormenting continues and her life spins out of control.

Expertly utilizing sci-fi trappings to take gaslighting to a whole new extreme, (there is a restaurant scene that you will never forget) the film depicts first-hand the anxieties faced by many modern-day survivors of abuse. As Cecilia stresses to those around her that her genius scientist ex has become invisible, we are left conflicted by knowing the truth of her words but also the understanding that, without hard evidence, it’s hard to accept her story at face value.

By operating in that grey area, ‘The Invisible Man’ proves the horror genre to be one of the most effective means to reflect modern day anxieties to mass audiences. Another thing this film succeeds upon is the writing. The story progresses in a fast paced way which doesn’t seem hurried. The 2 hr. run-time feels achieved. There’s definitely more than one ‘WTF’ moment in this film to keep you on the edge of your seat throughout.  As well, the score and the sound design definitely puts you in Cecilia’s shoes as you struggle with her to point out where and how exactly these events are happening aka where this ‘invisible man’ might be. The camera work is exquisite, and the action sequences definitely feel thrilling and the way it’s shot makes you feel like you’re living it.

Lastly, make no mistake about it, this movie is Elisabeth Moss’s and she lives, breathes and takes you along for the ride as if you are living it right next to her.  Hodge has always been a favourite and holds his own genuinely well here as does Storm Reid.  And don’t feel fooled by the seemingly small part of Michael Dorman as the brother Tom or Cecilia’s husband Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), as both have a surprise or two in hand for you.

Grade: B+

@pegsatthemovies

 

Media Review Screening: Tuesday, February 25, 2020 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures

“THE INVISIBLE MAN” IS NOW PLAYING IN THEATERS NATIONWIDE

REVIEW: “STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER” (2019) LucasFilm/Disney Pictures

Ah, that familiar opening sequence that we know so well.  Where we know we are going to a galaxy far far away…is about the only thing left from over from the original that will never get old seeing. Even with “STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER” having this terrific memorable opening sequence, it is sure note that this isn’t a ‘George Lucas’ vision of Star Wars. To be fair, when it comes to Star Wars, the appreciation and the significance of it all is not lost on me, as well as the quality and enjoyment of the films that people feel. But alas, I probably am not in the high percentile of top fans and really wouldn’t consider myself a big Star Wars fan per se. While having seen most of them, I was just one who never grasped onto to the films so completely as others have. With that, seeing the conclusion of the Skywalker series wasn’t going to make me emotional mess in the lead up as maybe it would be to some others – so just know this review truly has no bias on that end.

Episode IX takes place some number of years after The Last Jedi where Rey (Daisy Ridley) has been training to take down the first order.  The Resistance lead by Leia (Carrie Fisher) are figuring out a way to lead the charge with the few alliances they have left, and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is trying to become a powerful Sith. The unknown time after which this is set definitely has a few holes in the character progression that were possibly needed in order to ‘damage control’ on the story direction. It’s is also hard to talk about the film without spoilers, but doing my best to get across the jist of it, without really going into heavy spoiling. The Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) is not a spoiler as it’s in the trailers and posters so mentioning him, but not any external story elements stemming from his return noted.

As mentioned the biggest problem with Episode IX is the direction of this story. There is just an excess of side stories in the film which absolutely kills the run time and the effects of what the main story being told is. And can we say Cameos GALORE? Boy there were some good ones though. But if you were of the thought that ‘Force Awakens’ had nothing original to offer, well the Rise of Skywalker will double down on that premise. It’s hard to believe how they set it all up, had conflict and executed the conclusion of these characters, all in one unsuccessful sweep here. Plus smack dab in the middle of battle, leading us down the road to clearly what is to become the new series of films or possibly a new show for Disney +, with a quick little story line with Finn (John Boyega) and Janna (Naomi Ackle) have a little convo about how they came to be Troopers and how they need to ‘try and find where they came from.’ Yep, there is your next movie or TV story line people.

As many have already said, there was clearly no plan by Disney for the trilogy. What Abrams set up, then Rian Johnson stepped in and had total control to then do what he wanted, and now Abrams is back to ‘save’ the film by bringing back the Emperor. Okey Dokey. The way the film quickly establishes how and why it is nothing short of lazy. Because there was no mention in the previous sequel films, the Emperors return is ruined due to the franchise factor forcing it back in. The film originally was having Colin Trevorrow as director, so there was clearly no connecting person here like George Lucas and his vision, to step in and help the story take place and progress. Bringing in different directors bring a new look to the film is not a problem, if you can still have a solid story told throughout. Then the bunch of side stories that are being told, just fail to have the time to conclude properly. Maybe they needed more than one film in order to explore them – or should have done so previously. Everything is just rushed into the film and Rey, Finn, Po, Ren and the Emperor, all have to share the screen and some arcs don’t feel earned.

The new band of heroes here as well, just don’t have the same charm, personalities or chemistry together (actually this is the first movie in the new trilogy, where they do stuff together). They feel more like they have been cast for a commercial shoot of the film versus what type of character and personality they had to portray – they are all just so empty, like cardboard-cutouts with calculated screen-time and one-dimensional personalities. Most of them hardly even have an arc or any real character-development over the course of these three movies. The final scene with Kylo Ren and Rey is laughable bad, you’ll know what this is if you’ve seen the film, and if not, you soon will. I was just in awe that the writers ruined a perfect moment by including a said ‘particular action’ which eluded gasping laughs. One character though who was fun and has always been great, is C-3PO (Anthony Daniels). He always been essentially kinda bullied and the film knows this and consequently builds on this to create a somewhat compelling character. Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) wins for the most emotional moment though. Finn and Po Dameron (Oscar Isaac), had character problems that needed to be established in the earlier films as their pay offs don’t feel earned. Rey was also somewhat disappointing mostly due to the direction of the story, but her arc is so unbalanced throughout the first two films that once her character conclusion is just unsatisfactory.

The action as well often doesn’t serve a purpose to the story – it’s just more timely inserted space-battles, chase-scenes and sci-fi fights. Mostly just overblown shiny CGI stuff with a few practical puppets, sets and costumes thrown in to pander to the old fans. These characters didn’t have a lot of time to be together unlike in the original trilogy, so their interactions weren’t memorable. This is also due to the forced jokes and dialogue. I felt like Isaac’s Po was just trying to hard to fill Harrison Ford‘s old shoes of humour when he was Han Solo. Sure the original Star Wars movies had some humor, but in those movies it felt natural, not these wink-wink-moments, slapstick humor and juvenile self aware meme-jokes. What’s worse, is that this movie also tries to be dark at the same time, but this isn’t Empire Strikes Back or Revenge of the Sith, as those movies really were dark chapters in the Star Wars saga with hardly any humor in them.  But in The Rise of Skywalker, it just makes the movie feel even more like a tonal mess, since the movie tries so to be funny, upbeat and happy at the same, making both the humor, the drama and the darker elements feel even more forced and out of place.

The originals worked because they didn’t try to be funny, and the characters were written like they could almost be normal people in the space, whereas the sequel characters are just yelling stuff out that is not natural.  At least the CGI was great. It’s expected to be and it looked cool. What they did with Carrie Fischer was surprisingly good and it fit as well. Yes, it was kind of obvious at points where extreme editing was in play, but her tragic passing was so sad and they had to do what they could after the unfortunate circumstances. (#RIPCarrie). Some of the the battles, while looking good, weren’t all that well executed. As well, lacking a lot of suspense the light-saber duels between Rey and Kylo – on the one hand they were interesting  – on the other they don’t get you as excited as the film wanted you to be. The final fight was just really over the top. I get there’s a finality to the film but there’s so much that’s happening that leaves unanswered questions toward the state of the galaxy.

Lastly, is the music. Yes it’s essentially the same, but John William score is perfect and on every level and is possibly the only thing that elevates the movie. It adds all the tension and emotion to all the Star Wars films to be sure. It’s something we never tire of it after all these films and would still gladly listen to it in future films.

Overall, Rise of Skywalker is underwhelming in it’s execution yet has some good ideas. Even though I’m not it’s biggest fan, there still felt this unsatisfying feeling as the film clearly had no plan and the end result of the story is clearly forced. Is it wrong to have just wanted to see a good conclusion to one of the most popular franchises ever? Instead, the film misses the mark and fails to have an overall finality feeling.

Grade: C

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Media Review Screening: Tuesday, December 17, 2019 ~ Courtesy of Disney Pictures

“STAR WARS: EPISODE IX – THE RISE OF SKYWALKER” IS OUT IN THEATERS WORLDWIDE

REVIEW: “DARK PHOENIX” (2019) 20th Century Fox

As a die-hard X-Men Cartoon fan, the movies have definitely made it harder to keep up with my beloved teen-time cartoon.  Walking into “Dark Phoenix”  realizing with shame, I had no idea where the last film actually left off.   ‘Logan’ while being the last one in theaters,  is actually a spin-off of the Wolverine character.  So which one was it really as again the franchise has jumped around in its own history, undertaken a few time travel stories and even recast many characters while keeping others the same. This makes it a little hard to pin down which films follow which, and which are set in which timeline. Alas, “X-Men Apocalypse” is the last one, but in all honesty, it’s tough to remember exactly what happened, where it left off and what time-line frame it was in though a quick bit of research reminded me it was a 1983 timeline.  Moving on…

Dark Phoenix is set mostly in and around 1992, though we do go backwards in time to where the movie actually starts us off  with a young Jean Grey getting in a car crash with her two parents. After the rescue, we find out that her powers were responsible and she feels guilty for killing her mother but with her memory unclear and Prof. Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) to the rescue,  Jean comes to his children’s home for mutant kids.  From here we dramatically switch over to an Apollo spacecraft being launched and in profound trouble in space with the President enlisting the help of Xavier, Beast/Hank Mc Coy (Nicholas Hoult), Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Scott Summer/Cylops (Tye Sheridan), Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Peter/Quicksilver (Evan Peters), and Kurt/Nighcrawler (Kodi Smit–McPhee) are all aboard when they realize that the ship with the astronauts is being spun by a cosmic force, and lest we forget that this film storyline is all about Jean Grey aka Phoenix, she steps in to save the last of the crew while being enveloped completely by this cosmic force.

It doesn’t take long for this to start affecting Jean’s life and the life of everyone around her.  And while I won’t say who lives and who doesn’t, there are a few major deaths in this final story as most would expect there to be.  Once Jean realizes with this new found cosmic powers that make her the more powerful than ever, she finds her dad,  John Grey (Scott Shepard) is alive and that Charles has lied to her about her both of her parents being dead. What Jean doesn’t realize yet is that Charles lied because her father didn’t want her anymore. Getting really edgy at this point and as we see that her dad is still alive through her mind-reading flashbacks with Charles, she escapes the mansion via an emotional roller-coaster to find him.  With no where to go, she ends up on Erik/Magneto’s (Michael Fassbender) private island given to him by the US government, but soon wears out her welcome there also when he finds out what she did when leaving the mansion and this sends Magneto on a rage after her also.

You might think this telling is off-kilter in so many ways,, but this is truly how the film is moving along.  Everything is jumping time-lines and places again, though not so simply followed as in previous films.  We finally get to the point where we realize what Jean’s powers are really meant for when we meet aliens Vuk (Jessica Chastain) and Jones (Ato Essandoh).  They need her to restart their planet and their people with said power.

This films cast is stacked high with star profile, but there is also moments when you realize they have failed somewhat to do the hard work of character development that the cartoon and the comics both accomplished.  It had been around a long time before the Dark Phoenix saga of Jean Grey had even begun and we felt we knew her character well enough to care.  In the cartoon/comics this story kicked off even more adventures for the X-Men, giving the characters time to come to terms with Jean Grey’s transformation and the damage inflicted.  With this film, we barely know Turner’s version as this is only her second showing, and yet, a whole film is devoted here.

But this new movie isn’t the beginning of another chapter, it’s a definitive end.  Amid the  expected ending of an all in/all out CGI battle between the X-Men and aliens not being up to par with what we have come to expect with such films,  the aliens that aren’t done in a way to make them exciting in the least, though they do shape-shift into humans, we can say the same about the mutants.  It’s an ending that could have led into something so much more spectacular had Fox not been sold to Disney and we now know a hard reboot is happening and everything is going to change. The rest of Dark Phoenix‘s plot is very much taking liberties with the original saga in order to contain and connect the narrative, for better or worse. And for better or worse we can only wait and see.

Grade: C

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Media Review Screening: Monday, June 3, 2019 ~ Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

‘DARK PHOENIX’ OPENS IN THEATERS WORLD-WIDE – FRIDAY, JUNE 7, 2019

REVIEW: “THE DARKEST MINDS” (2018) 20th Century Fox

Starting us off somewhere in the future, “THE DARKEST MINDS” throws us in into a world where 98% of American kids were wiped out by a mysterious disease called IAAN aka Idiopathic Adolescent Acute Neurodegeneration. 10-year old Ruby Daly (Heaven Hightower) is one of the survivors and is taken along with other survivors of the plague by the government and put them in a camp – yes, it is eerily reminiscent of not only what has happened in the past, but what is happening right now in the US.

Here, the kids are classified by color, based on the special ability that they possess: Greens are geniuses. Blues are telepathics. Golds have electrical powers. Reds and Oranges are rare, but are also considered dangerous and terminated on site. Ruby is diagnosed an Orange, but thanks to Cate (Mandy Moore), a doctor from the resistance Children’s League who helps Ruby escape the camp. From that point on, she has to discover how to use her power in order to survive.

Ruby (Amandla Sternberg) now a teenager, finally escapes her camp – she meets and makes friends with a group of fellow runaways, namely Zu (Miya Cech), Charlie ‘Chubbs’ to his friends (Skylan Brooks) and Liam (Harris Dickinson). They seek out and find refuge in EDO, a camp for survivor kids. And of course, as in every YA film, a romance blooms between Ruby and Liam, while Chubbs provides the comic relief third wheel and Zu gives us a ‘silent’ performance that isn’t terrible.

I went into this film not knowing that it was based on the first book of a young adult book series written by Alexandra Bracken. Her “The Darkest Minds” series started in 2012, and shockingly is now already into its fifth installment. Maybe had it been done then vs. now it might seem as something new. As it was, this whole film felt like a ‘Maze Runner/Divergent’ retread. And that my friends, is wherein the problem lies with “The Darkest Minds,” it comes out too long after this trend has run out of steam.

Up and coming young actress Amandla Sternberg has lovely quality and screen presence about her and I don’t think it’s far-fetched to predict that she’s got a great career in front of her, though hopefully something with a bit more ummph to it.
Harris Dickinson, who impressed me so much with both ‘Beach Rats’ & his portrayal of J.Paul Getty Jr.,in ‘Getty’, sadly disappoints here playing rebel leader and Ruby’s love interest. Patrick Gibson is the villan of sorts, Clancy Gray, the son of the US President and a fellow Orange who took a special interest in Ruby, steps it up some and helps make the last 35 minutes of this film interesting. Mandy Moore just gave me a “This is Us” mom-vibe for her role and Bradley Whitford as US President Grey, a nasty character that could probably give Trump a run for his money. Which brings us down to our least used star whom I love, Gwendoline Christie. She only has a few scenes as Lady Jane, a bounty hunter chasing runaway kids, but made them work.

Watching “The Darkest Minds” gave me a “been there, done that” feeling. I could not help but see it as just another rehash of all the previous YA adventure series. But what started off quite terribly, picked up the last 35 minutes to make it not a completely wasted watch as it did have its own twists, particularly regarding a certain power that only Ruby can perform. But it will take sequels to explore how this story will proceed from the familiar set-up it has begun with here. But again, it’s 2018 – and the time for this YA genre is long past it’s due date. I predict this one will be in and out of theaters before your mind can go dark.

Grade: C–
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Media Review Screening: Wednesday, August 1, 2018 ~ Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
‘THE DARKEST MIND’ IS NOW PLAYING NATIONWIDE // WORLDWIDE RELEASE STARTING FRIDAY, AUGUST 10, 2018

REVIEW: “DOWNSIZING” (2017) Paramount Pictures

Welp. we’ve got a strike three for Matt Damon on his 2017 films with “DOWNSIZING”. This movie takes an interesting premise, “What if we could make ourselves smaller to use up fewer resources and save the planet?” and really just does nothing with it. Having heard little about the film aside from its concept, I went into the screening fairly cold. Sadly, the film doesn’t have a whole lot more to offer than its brilliant concept and exceptional first act. I must admit that I left feeling disappointed, thinking they could’ve made this a better movie in many ways. When a film has so much promise and doesn’t exactly deliver on much of it, I feel as though many people would be let down by that.

In this dramedy, which also in part a social satire of its own genre, Downsizing follows a couple Paul (Matt Damon) & Audrey (Kristen Wiig) Safranek, who believe their lives would be better if they were to shrink themselves and be transferred to a new world called Leisureland. This place exists to conserve the Earth and save the environment, as let’s face it, smaller people need much fewer resources. With multiple meanings to the title, this is a concept that sounds incredible on paper but doesn’t exactly translate into that great of a movie. Throughout the first act, I found myself immersed in this world and couldn’t wait to be taken on its journey, but I soon found myself losing interest when political and religious elements began to take over and it started to go very sloooowww. And it’s sad as this is a movie that could’ve done so much more with its premise.

Without giving anything away, there are many characters such as Niecy Nash playing a Leisureworld salesperson, or that of Dusan Mirkovic (Christof Waltz), The Lonowski’s, Jeff (Neil Patrick Harris) & Laura (Laura Dern) or Paul’s good friend Dave (Jason Sudeikis), that come in and out of this film in a heartbeat, pretty much leaving them in the dust, when in reality they were actually interesting and added a layer to the overall story. It felt as though Director Alexander Payne wanted to focus so much on the idea of the Downsizing concept, that he sidelined quite a few characters along the way. His films have always been about characters, and while Paul and Ngoc (Hong Chau) share some great chemistry throughout this film, it’s hard not to wish that all of the characters throughout the first act were present throughout the entire film. This was a very curious issue I had while watching and definitely upon reflection.

As soon as you’re brought into this other world that has been built for those who shrunk themselves over the years, you will find yourself kind of transfixed at how interesting the visuals are and how lackluster the comedy is, but what you don’t expect is for the film to take a dramatic turn and really have you thinking hard about the world we live in and whether or not certain lines of dialogue are true about society in general. This is an eye-opening film in that regard and the third act is incredibly ambitious, but I just don’t think it really sticks the landing that it strives to achieve.

In the end, this is one of the most original ideas I can recall in recent memory, but an idea doesn’t make a film great. It’s the film itself that needs to win you over as a whole, and Downsizing just didn’t do that for me. On many accounts, this is a very impressive movie from a technical standpoint and it takes risks that I didn’t expect it to, but the risks it takes will only work for a few audiences members that can relate to it.

This is a movie that promises a lot and tries to deliver on all of those promises, while also shoving in side plots that make this film too emotionally complex to really be invested in the satirical aspects by the end. I wish this film went through a few more rewrites, because there is a satirical masterpiece of a movie in here somewhere, but it’s just not the product that you’ll be seeing in theatres soon. Downsizing might be worth your time in terms of originality, but I wouldn’t get your hopes up on it being a favorite.

Grade: C-
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Media Review Screening: Wednesday, December 5, 2017 ~ Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
DOWNSIZING is now playing in theaters nationwide. To be released Worldwide in January 2018