Movie Re-Watch – Sky High

I honestly forgot just how cute, and how much fun this 2005 film is. And I had the movie conflated in my head with Mean Girls, thinking Tina Fey was the gym teacher. Well, she’s not — instead, we have the equally awesome Bruce Campbell as the gym teacher. And in case you forgot, Sky High itself is a floating castle of a high school, specifically for young Superheroes-in-training. And also, sadly, a school for Sidekicks (AKA, “hero support”).

On your first day of school you get slotted as a Hero or Sidekick. And the teens we follow are those whose powers are so bizarre (melting into a puddle of slime) or minor (shape shifting into a guinea pig) that they are siloed as Sidekicks. And the main character – the son of the Earth’s most powerful superheroes – has no powers at all.

Sounds fun? It really is. [pullquote]The “evil plot” is a forgettable MacGuffin, so you can feel free to ignore everything to do with it, and get on with the good times one can imagine if an 80’s John Hughes film was steeped in a tea of Marvel goodness. [/pullquote]There’s the smart-ass tormentors of the Sidekicks, the pretty mean girls, the snide cafeteria hijinks, the bad boy with a heart of gold, childhood crushes, school tournaments (Save The Citizen!), and kids who really just wants to fit in. Even if fitting in means he simply glows if he tries really hard — and only if it’s really dark enough.

Things to notice: the soundtrack that takes you way back. Funky posters on the walls, silly jokes and throwaway lines in background scenes, sly school loudspeaker announcements that you barely notice, a self-referential picture on a  pinball machine…it’s all there for the joy of it. Also, you’ve got Principal Linda Carter giving kids detention, shaking her head at the children and saying she’s not Wonder Woman, ya know.

Does the powerless kid get his powers? What do you think? Does the gawky girl get the boy? C’mon. From Steve Stronghold (Kurt Russel at his overbearing man-child best) as The Commander, to Ron Wilson, Bus Driver (who I want to give a hug for making lemonade out of lemons), this is a whole heap of fun and a good message. Sky High is a keeper for the download list, a nice background movie ranking next to The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller, and…yeah, Mean Girls.

Movie Grade: A-

Movie Review – Ocean’s 8

I understand the appeal of a movie like this — the Ocean’s 11 (and +) movies are popular, and the idea of all these good looking, smart men conducting a high-octane heist is great fun, when done right. Switching it off with Danny Ocean’s prison-sprung sister Debbie, and her classy, femme fatale cohorts should be equally exciting, right?They got the perfect lineup of attractive, well-regarded, and culturally diverse actresses, added a reasonable plot, and mixed it together with snappy lines and pretty dresses.

So I did have a degree of good expectations heading into the theater. What surprised me was how mediocre the affair turned out to be. What do women want? Clearly, diamonds. The male plots didn’t have diamond necklace payouts. And [pullquote position=”left”]I understand audiences probably enjoyed the high fashion displayed along the way, and the actresses got to have some girly fun…but there it is: that’s the word: girly.[/pullquote]

I can even get past the shortsightedness of the Material Girl culture if the film was funny enough, clever enough, or just a rollicking good time. But instead it kind of checks all the boxes expected of a heist film, then calls it a day, satisfied at the end to sip a gin and tonic by a tombstone.

I don’t think it’s enough to go through the motions. In the Danny Ocean movies we get to see why each character was recruited, and what made them perfect for the mission. Here, most of that was skipped over in favor of lightly amusing banter.

I’m not saying it’s a bad film. I’m just confused why this gender-flipped version wasn’t as much fun, or as smart, as the others.

To the good: [pullquote position=”right”]Helena Bonham Carter and Anne Hathaway added some needed zest to their roles. They were delightfully off-kilter, without ever veering into bizarre. I do expect that from Carter, but it’s nice to see Hathaway mixing it up. [/pullquote]She plays Daphne like she did The White Queen (in the regrettably Depp-heavy Alice in Wonderland), with an unusual texture and tone. I’m glad to see Hathaway isn’t afraid to break out of the ‘perfect girl’ mold. It’s time to give this actress some rope to play with, because I think she can develop a respectable range.

With the plethora of great movies in the theater this summer, I’d recommend waiting for the DVD on Ocean’s 8. It’s a perfect at-home-with-the-girls movie, with plenty of the above-mentioned gin and tonics. Save your cinema money for the stuff you need to see on the big screen to appreciate — the dinosaurs, the wizards, the superheros, and the galaxies long ago and far away.

So, yeah, a B- isn’t a bad grade, but I’ve given you enough information to decide what you want to do with your time.

Movie Grade: B-

RunPee Meta: It’s not easy to get good Peetimes for heist films, which tend to be lean (not much filler), and have many points that seem minor at the time, only to reveal a big payoff later. I’ve provided 3 Peetimes that are easily summed up in the synopses. I recommend the 1st Peetime, at 42 minutes in, if you can make a pre-emptive break. The 3rd Peetime is best for emergencies. 

Movie Review – Hereditary

Hereditary wasn’t terrible. I was really on the fence about seeing this movie. The trailers made it look really good but I’ve been burned by that so many times I’ve lost count.

I’m not a fan of A24 — the company that released the movie. I haven’t liked a single one of their movies. So I felt almost compelled to see this movie and prove myself wrong. Maybe they can make a movie I like?

They pretty much made me eat my words on this movie. It was decent. The acting was great, the story was really intense and the mood almost makes you shiver. I felt it could have been slightly shorter, but I see why they did it. They were creating the right mood. It worked. I don’t know if everyone will like this movie, but it was worth the price of my ticket.

Movie Grade: B-

Movie Review – Upgrade

Plain and simple, I loved Upgrade. The acting was great, as was the directing and pacing. Also, Whannell wrote a darn good story, somewhat reminiscent of one of my all time favorite movies —Robo Cop.

I had zero expectations when I walked into the theater, and left pleasantly surprised.

One caveat: it is pretty gory, but not much more than you see on any CSI show. (For those who remember Robo Cop, Upgrade has the same kind of gore, just much more, and administered more creatively.)

Movie Grade:  A-

Movie Review – Action Point

I’m a huge Johnny Knoxville fan; I’ve seen every one of his movies at least five times. It kills me to say this, but I probably won’t watch this one again. It lacked in a way that I can’t quite define. I wasn’t all hyped up after this one, and felt a little blah during it.

Don’t get me wrong, there were a few funny moments in it that made me laugh out loud. It just wasn’t up to par with the rest of them.[pullquote] If you are expecting Bad Grandpa, leave that thought at the ticket window.[/pullquote] I was kind of thinking that’s what we were going to get here, but it was very far from that.

I’d recommend it for a night in with your friends when the DVD comes out.

Grade: C

Movie Review – Adrift

Adrift is both more and less than I expected. I expected long, languid scenes of a sailboat floating aimlessly at sea; I expected storms; I expected frequent stretches where Tami (Shailene Woodley) learns to sail. Those bits were in there. [pullquote]What I didn’t expect: the absence of any kind of compelling narrative in what should have been a gripping tale of survival, guts, and grit.[/pullquote]

I’m not putting it down lightly. It looked like a fantastic movie from the trailers. I personally like  disaster stories, and will hang in there for extended stretches of silence if the action, plot, or characterization is good enough.

Or even if the scenery is good enough.

Making ocean scenes pretty should be an easy task, but everything in Adrift was fraught with glare. That might have been a creative choice to impart a sense of peril, but I feel it’s just a missed opportunity. Instead of offering a great cinematic experience, it comes across like a documentary. Worse, a cheap one.

I wondered previously if Woodley was seasoned enough to carry an entire movie — and in fact almost an entirely silent one — on her back. The answer shown here is: no, she can’t, at least not yet. [pullquote position=”right”]Emily Blunt would have knocked it out of the park. (In fact, in the recently fantastic  A Quiet Place, Blunt did just that — with less dialog.)[/pullquote]

I think the non-linear storytelling device hampers any attempt to build tension, stamping the movie with the cardinal sin of being boring. Adrift should have been told in a straightforward manner, starting with Tami meeting Richard, getting to know him, talking about their journey, and setting off towards disaster. Instead, we start in the immediate aftermath of the event. From then on, the story shuffles between three different timelines. Every time things start to build any emotional resonance, the direction cuts to somewhere else.

I’m not saying every movie has to follow a linear narrative, but what Adrift attempted to do didn’t work. If you are going for an artsy route, you need the right directorial experience, with high-caliber actors to pull it off.

In any case, it made finding Peetimes pretty easy: there really was only one scene where you can’t hop out to the bathroom.

This film is apparently based on a true story, and maybe there just wasn’t enough meat in the sandwich…but you know you’re in trouble when a short movie like this still feels too long.

Movie Grade: C-

SPOILER TO FOLLOW:

 

 

I think the choice of having there be a surprise twist felt cheap. I expected the character of Richard to be a co-starring role, not an almost silent phantom. All their lines together were probably in the trailers, leading me to think that they would work together to get out of their mess – him via talking her through it, her by learning from his commands. Instead, we have a sort of Life of Pi/Fight Club/The 6th Sense scenario going on. Those movies are top notch and earned their endings. This one just sort of…happened. Since I had no investment in anything onscreen by then, the big reveal felt pointless.

———-

Here are links to the true-life book Adrift was based on, plus A Quiet Place, which we can’t say enough good things about: 

RunPee Review of A Quiet Place (with Spoilers)

RunPee Review of A Quiet Place, No Spoilers

Movie Review – Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom has all the tense action and one liners you would expect based off the history of the franchise. But I hope you don’t expect anything more than a template of a story to support it.

The first hour of this movie plays like it was written with some basic storytelling application. I can just see the “writer” selecting: Insert > Character > Friendly but ultimately untrustworthy, or Layout > Impending Disaster > Volcano, from the menu system and then accepting all the defaults. It’s that genetic… I mean generic. 🙂

At least Chris Pratt delivers his usual entertaining performance. Mainly because he’s the only interesting character in the movie.

The good news is that my 5 year old niece was enthralled with the movie, particularly with Blue. I’m pretty sure she thinks Blue is the main character in the story.

I could go on and on with the many ways that JW:FK fails, but instead I made that a separate post, full of spoilers, so read the link below if you care. (Suggestion: if you finish the movie and enjoyed it then don’t read my evisceration of a review below. I don’t want to ruin it for you. But if you, like myself, were disappointed, it might be worth your time.)

Grade: C-

Jurassic World: Missed Opportunities

Jurassic World – Movie Review

 

Movie Review – Show Dogs

This is a silly stupid comedy that I think was intended for a 5-7 year old audience. It has a 12% Audience rating from RottenTomatoes.com. I think that says it all.

Grade: D-

Movie Review – Book Club

I thought this would be an inspiring movie about taking life by the balls (or in this case, the ovaries) in your golden years. The high-caliber cast of aging actresses is stellar; they did a fine job. I am  about 15-20 years younger than them, but feel like they have options I will never have. [pullquote]They are rich, live in their own lovely homes, have great careers, and enjoy close friendships with each other. They are basically Sex and the City: The Older Edition. It’s cute, it’s funny — and super depressing.[/pullquote] I need to stick to Deadpool, Star Wars, and Avengers. Even the recent 50 Shades movie was better than this. This one….is simply full of unrealistic  mockery. It probably depends on what is happening in your life.

I personally feel cheated. In the ruins of my newly single life, I have no friends, live in a cinder-block closet in my mother’s basement, and have no future. I work out like a fiend, and look better than I did in my 20s. I have abs. And it doesn’t matter. The hoary, combed-over, wrinkled ex-husband featured in this film has a 25-year-old blonde hot bimbo for a new wife. So, what chance do I have? Do I have to find old men who think I am the young hot chick?

No, thank you.

Back to the movie. There are a lot of laughs. The entire room, playing up against Marvel’s ‘juggernaut’ Deadpool2 (that’s an in-joke, sorry), was PACKED. Mature ladies, elderly women, old couples, and the occasional young 50 Shades fan took up every single seat. That was unexpected. And the laughs were raucously loud for the first third of the film. I laughed with them too.

And suddenly, reality set in. Things stopped being fun. These four leading ladies looked amazing; they were also rich, and high-powered. (For example, one was a judge. One owned hotels. [pullquote]These were not normal women – they were senior superheroes.[/pullquote]) The characters were NOT RELATABLE. A discontent seemed to seep into the entire theater: these women were not us. And the characters were lucky in a way that wasn’t aspirational.

Well, the actresses clearly enjoyed themselves. Good on them. But did the viewers walk out (and use walkers out, in many, many cases) feeling happy? I looked closely at the audience during the credits. And I have to say no: the older people seemed downcast. I myself was full of despair. [pullquote position=”right”]These characters were clearly lucky. They didn’t work at bettering their lives. Book Club didn’t  encourage the audience to make changes in themselves, or even in their vaginas.[/pullquote] One character bumped into an old beau. One character tripped over a hot younger pilot  (she fell into his lap <—– I need to learn this trick). And so on. Luck. Yeah.

So, how to grade this? I’d call it misleading advertising. I expected their book club to inspire changes we could all learn from and emulate. Instead, poor little rich-girl hottie (probably starving herself to keep her shape) Jane Fonda fears “real” love. Adorable Diane Keaton finds a sexy younger millionaire via a stereotypical meet-cute moment. What the heck IS THIS? I don’t eat either, to look good. But where are the men?

Well then. I suppose I’m getting too critical. I just wanted to laugh and let go of grief and regret for a couple of hours. Not happening in this film — things hit too close to home. I will say this:  if you have a really tight group of girlfriends who support you emotionally, and ply you with wine at the drop of a hat, a la Sex and the City (and yes, Book Club), hold onto them like the gold they are.

I feel like crying. Count me out.

Grade: C

Related: Keaton Kisses Kimmel, Talks Sex

Movie Review – Deadpool 2

Deadpool 2. Funny?

Without question.

As funny as the first?

Close, but not quite… Okay, now that I think about it, yeah, it was as funny as the first.

Deadpool 2. Great action?

Absolutely.

Was the action as good as the first?

Nope.

This has hardly a knock on the movie. The first Deadpool was fantastic, A-grade material, from start to finish. DP2 coming close is still a great compliment.

What DP2 has over the original is the impressive list of cameos. I don’t want to give it away here, in case you haven’t seen the movie yet, so I’ll put that at the very bottom in case you’re interested.

One thing I did notice however was that the sound was a little muffled. I don’t think it was the theater because it’s an IMAX theater I’ve been to many times. There were a number of lines that just felt swallowed up and I couldn’t catch them.

Grade: B+

Scroll down for the notable cameos…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brad Pitt as Vanisher
Terry Crews as Bedlam
Matt Damon as Redneck #1
Alan Tudyk as Redneck #2
Nicholas Hoult as Beast (uncredited)
Hugh Jackman as Wolverine (uncredited)
James McAvoy as Charles Xavier (uncredited)
Evan Peters as Quicksilver (uncredited)
Tye Sheridan as Cyclops (uncredited)