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Life (2017)

His Review:

Life has a simple concept.  A team of scientist astronauts (Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare) have taken a sample of Marian soil and found a living organism embedded within the red dirt.  Not wanting to risk any catastrophe, the team will study the single cell creature in a space station above Earth, but as Life is a sci-fi horror, things go horribly wrong as the creature beings to grow and evolve within days.

Life might be a simple concept, but the movie builds a quality experience around a claustrophobic setting with interesting characters.  The only downfall that Life has, and it is pretty huge, is that it is nowhere near the first nor original in its premise.  This movie is about a team of people in space being terrorized by an alien life form that grows and adapts every day, and the team has to try desperately for this creature to not to reach Earth.  Sound familiar?  I’m sure everyone just thought of the Ridley Scott classic Alien, but there are several other films that could fit this genre.  In fact, movies like Event Horizon also came to mine as the space aspect is highly important here and the tension and fear is super high.

Looking at Life in a vacuum, it is a tense thriller that creates its mood through fear and what might happen rather than what actually happens.  Sure, some of the crew dies, but there isn’t much gore or terrifying deaths that will have people feeling sick.  However, many scenes might have you covering your eyes because you fear the unknown and that is where Life wins.  The good news is that, because of all the other films in this genre, you should already know if Life is for you.

At the end of the day, Life would be an instant winner if it were something new or original, but it really isn’t.  When this movie was over, because of movies like I mentioned above or because of video games like Dead Space, I knew what to expect and it didn’t shock me.  Sadly, I can’t tell if Life will be a movie that I forget in the years to come, but I believe that if you are going to make a movie, don’t copy a classic.  You won’t change our minds.  However, if you are young and never seen Alien, then maybe give this a try… then again, just go watch Alien!

7/10 Stars – Even though this is a copy of several “monsters in space” movies, Life does its job well and is worth a look, but don’t expect to be wowed.

Denial (2016)

His Review:

Based on the book “History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier,” Denial is about acclaimed historian Deborah E. Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) and her battle against David Irving (Timothy Spall) who sues her for libel over whether the holocaust actually happened.

Also starring Tom Wilkinson as part of Lipstadt’s legal team, Denial might look like a courtroom drama on the outside, but this movie is more of a biography that shows us a mindset that some of us couldn’t even fathom and that is that the Holocaust didn’t happen.  This movie is simple and easy to understand, yet has many layers on a difficult subject.  The acting is solid and the story will touch many.  It is interesting that anyone could have ever said that the Holocaust didn’t happen, but because of this court ruling, there is no doubt going forward.  No one can deny this horrific event anymore.

Unfortunately, that is all Denial really is.  It is a 2 hour battle between a historian and a liar.  I’m not sure how much rewatchability this movie has, similar to Spotlight, this movie has history at its core with an easy to follow story.  I think the major difference between Spotlight and this is that in Spotlight there is an investigation into the facts, where in Denial it is simply “how can we make this judge not believe the liar.”

At the end of the day, Denial is a good movie with plenty of history, but it lacks tension or excitement.  This is a drama set in a courtroom without much magic.  I’m not saying this story should be this way, but because it is what it is, it suffers compared to others.  Having said that, if you are a fan of history or courtroom dramas, this movie is an interesting look at a time when some believed the Holocaust didn’t happen.

7/10 Stars – Even though it lacks energy for a courtroom drama, the history and subject matter will make up for the lack of flare.

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

His Review:

Long ago, a greedy and spoiled prince (Dan Stevens) was turned into a hideous beast by an enchantress whom he had wronged.  He was given a mirror as his only means to see the outside world and a rose which symbolized true love.  The prince must find someone to love him as the Beast before the last pedal falls from the rose or be transformed forever.  It seems that all hope is lost for the Beast and his loyal staff, who also have been transformed, but when an innocent and kind girl named Belle (Emma Watson) steps into his castle, everything begins to change.

Obviously this movie is going to be compared to the greatness that was Disney’s 1992 masterpiece by the same name, but before I do that, I want to talk about this movie by itself.  Let’s first talk about casting.  I know many people who had issues with Emma Watson being cast as Belle, and I can’t argue there as I never fully felt a connection to her, but she does the job well and doesn’t screw things up.  I also don’t have a problem with Dan Stevens as the Beast because he is the Beast for most of the movie and I don’t have to see his face!  Speaking of the Beast, holy crap is he spot on!  I can only guess that the same technology that they used in The Jungle Book was the same they used for the Beast as he looks great.  However, for me, it was the casting, acting, and charm of the supporting cast that made this movie so wonderful.  Ewan McGregor, Kevin Cline, Emma Thompson, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Ian McKellen, and Stanley Tucci are all amazing actors in their own right, but add them together where they get to be flamboyant and quirky, it’s even better!  This movie wouldn’t be anywhere close to being as great as it is without them.  I might have cast The Rock as Gaston since we know he can sing now, but that is splitting hairs at this point.

Ok, comparison time.  As we all know, Alice in Wonderland, The Jungle Book and Cinderella came before this one in Disney’s live action series and Beauty and the Beast is the first time they went straight for the idea of matching the story as much as possible.  All the songs are there, done brilliantly and there are even a few new songs.  Many of the scenes are scripted straight out of the animated film to the point that even the on-screen visuals are the same.  Surprisingly this is my only true negative of the film as I would have liked to see a little more autonomy from this version.  Now, understand that this is a very minor quibble as this version is about 85% the same.  They did make changes, but only minor ones as the big changes came in the form of additions rather than true changes.  Belle has a back story now and we get to see a little more of Maurice which Kevin Kline makes us want more of!  Beast even has a new song near the end of the movie.  To sum it up, this version is the closest adaptation Disney has done yet to their animated versions, and some will love that and some will feel like they are just watching the same thing again.

Before I conclude, I want to address 2 things before I go.  First, I want to give major props to the creators for the job they did on “Be Our Guest.”  For those of you who haven’t seen this movie, just imagine the animated sequence in the 1992 film and turn that into live action.  Not only does Ewan McGregor sing wonderfully, but the set piece and the choreography is really great!  It was definitely the highlight of the movie for me.  The 2nd thing I want to address is the crap surrounding “the first openly gay character” of LeFou.  Josh Gad is a great talent in Hollywood and was cast perfectly for this role, but c’mon people.  LeFou is not openly gay.  In fact, he is more awkward than gay, and if he was gay, he doesn’t have a clue.  This character is not openly gay, he is not in love with Gaston, and he isn’t anything to worry about (as if gay people were anything to worry about in first place…because they aren’t!).  I don’t know what people sought to make such a big deal out of this.

At the end of the day, if you grew up watching the 1992 version, this movie MIGHT be something you don’t like because it is very close to that film, but if this is the first time seeing this story and hearing these songs, than this movie is faithful to what Disney did in the animated classic.  The supporting cast is what makes this movie shine for me as I felt like I didn’t care much about Belle and Beast which could be because I knew how the story ends.  Big thumbs up and this is a great movie for the family to see.  Co-starring Audra McDonald, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Hattie Morahan, Hayden Gwynee, and Nathan Mack.

8/10 Stars – Wonderful family adaptation of the 1992 animated classic that is true to the story with a few slight alterations (that you might see as good or bad).

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

His Review:

During the Vietnam war, a group of scientists locate an island in the South Pacific that hasn’t been explored or charted to date, but with the threat of Soviet encroachment looming, the Americans send a military squad to Skull Island in search of whatever they might find.

3 years ago Godzilla was rebooted with a movie that fans cheered over.  Godzilla wasn’t front and center, but when he was on screen, things were awesome and it left us wanting more.  Flash forward to now and this time we get a King Kong reboot that doesn’t center on the normal story.  There is no New York or Empire State Building.  This time around a group of Americans travel to the island, discover it is inhabited by a giant monkey, and find out this monkey is there protecting the indigenous people from the “skull crushers” who are ghoul like lizards with giant beaks that eat people.  The military men want to kill Kong for his attacks, but the scientists and explorers know he is good and on their side so they are trying to stop the military from hurting him.

Just like in Godzilla, Kong isn’t on screen that much, but when he is, he makes the most of it.  He is fierce yet protective and is a force to be reckon with.  This movie is a pure adventure movie with enough comedy to balance the action, but the story here is the key to keeping Kong fresh even though this story is different from the original.  Kong Skull Island is a fun ride that allows the audience to still be interested in the story even when Kong isn’t on screen.  One of the bigger factors to keep in mind when watching this film, and even more in years to come, is that this might be the start of something bigger.  Think of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but surrounding the Kiju monsters of Godzilla, King Kong, Mothra, Rodan and King Ghidorah.  These monsters could be heading to the big screen and this movie could be the catalyst!

At the end of the day, if you liked the new Godzilla reboot than you might like this even more because it is less dark, Kong is on screen more, and it is more about adventure than suspense.  This movie is just fun and something to ooo and awe over.  I highly recommend this and would say to shy away if you are wanting something close to the original story, because that isn’t here.  Big thumbs up!  Starring Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John C. Reilly, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Corey Hawkins, John Ortiz, Tian Jing, Thomas Mann, Shea Whigham, Jason Mitchell, and Richard Jenkins.

9/10 Stars – Normally I would give this an 8 stand alone, but the anticipation of more greatness coming from this fast, fun, adventure series has me excited!  This might be the Iron Man to the Kong-zilla universe!

The Belko Experiment (2017)

Imagine, if you will, that your work shut its doors and locked you in with your co-workers and a mysterious voice tells everyone that if half of you are not dead in 2 hours, all of you will die… that is the Belko Experiment.

The premise of The Belko Experiment seems interesting on paper, and yes this is indeed an experiment, however, when you break it down, this is not real.  It is not an experiment.  It is a fictional movie script written by one person.  Had this movie been real, and it was a documentary about what truly happened, then the data and outcome would have been that more interesting, but of course you can’t do that.  So in theory this movie isn’t really an experiment but 1 persons interpretation of what could happen.  Sure, they try to keep the movie as real as possible, but when you go to a movie to see a horror film, sometimes we want entertainment and not realism.  What I mean by realism is that these murders are mainly done with guns and knives.  This isn’t the Hunger Games so the kills are rather boring in terms of crazy and for that this movie leaves an impression that has horror fans saying “that’s it?”.

Other than the obvious nature that this movie is an experiment but really a fictional story, this movie has a really bad ending.  I’m not going to spoil much but I will say that of the people who live, one of them should have been killed immediately towards the beginning.  This person represents one side of the argument and anyone who took the other side should have shot him right away, but he doesn’t die.  That is the first mistake when trying to make a movie realistic.  The 2nd problem I have with the ending is how the events play out.  It is simply unbelievable what happens and I don’t think for a second that things would play out the way they do.  It is one of those “yeah whatever” moments and it seemed rather dumb.  However, it is the big reveal that made me shake my head and not because of the twist, but because it is an obvious copy of another horror movie I’ve seen before.  Granted, the movie it copies wasn’t very popular (House of Nine) but it is the same concept.  In House of Nine, 9 people are trapped in a house and the last person alive gets a bag full of money, but the big twist in that movie is the same twist as in The Belko experiment.  Some people might not notice it, but I did and it bugged me.

The positives from this movie is the high amount of violence and tension this movie creates.  It does its job decently and will keep most horror fans interested, but once it is over, you will feel cheated as it leaves you feeling empty.  I wanted more and something that would set this movie apart, but it fails to do so.  I think anyone who sees it won’t regret the time spent, but after 6 months, I don’t know who is still going to be talking about this story.  It was alright.  Starring John Gallagher Jr., Tony Goldwin, John C. McGinley, Adria Arjona, Melonie Diaz, Owain Yeoman, Sean Gunn, Brent Sexton, John Brener, David Dastmalchian, Michael Rooker, Rusty Schwimmer, and Gregg Henry.

5/10 Stars – I didn’t regret seeing this “realistic” fiction experiment, but when it was over, I said “that’s it?”

Chips (2017)

Friday, April 7, 2017

His Review: Based off the famous TV show series, Chips surrounds FBI agent Frank Poncherello (Michael Pena) who is undercover looking for crooked cops.  He is partnered with…

Life (2017)

Friday, April 7, 2017

His Review: Life has a simple concept.  A team of scientist astronauts (Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare) have taken a sample of Marian soil…

Denial (2016)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

His Review: Based on the book “History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier,” Denial is about acclaimed historian Deborah E. Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) and…

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

His Review: Long ago, a greedy and spoiled prince (Dan Stevens) was turned into a hideous beast by an enchantress whom he had wronged.  He was given a mirror…

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