Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010)

6/10
The Percy Jackson series was one I avoided for fear it would be childish and not be entertaining enough to keep me interested. After learning that demigods live amongst us, with special powers beyond our wildest imaginations, I found out that even the Gods are without conflict and humans play a huge part in their ongoing power struggles. If you look up the list of who is in the movie, Sean Bean, Uma Thurman, Steve Coolidge, Pierce Bronson, and Rosario Dawson, you’d be surprised to see them be some of the most famous and powerful Gods with out of this world transforming powers. I felt this film was a good introduction into a magical world much like Harry Potter’s, but could have been more in terms of storytelling and action sequences. If you are unfamiliar with all the Greek Gods and their powers, you may be a little confused on who does what and why. Zeus and Poseidon are really important parts of the story, which is all about Percy Jackson coming to terms with his true reality, but don’t get enough attention to make this story even more important. There’s really no sense in urgency in the film which I wish it had more of.

The Ghost and the Darkness (1996)

8/10
The Ghost and the Darkness is the ultimate battle of who the king of the jungle is, man or lion. Who will outsmart the other it the name of the game, with humans using traps, fire, and guns, while the lions will counter with teeth, speed, and fear. Humans are advancing into wild by building a bridge to make way for a train, but the man in charge John Patterson (Val Kilmer) is running out of guys because the lions are hungry. Wise bounty hunter Charles Remington (Michael Douglas) shows up to put his mad skills to use to stop a pandemic no one has ever seen or heard of before. Amazingly the action is pretty intense as every trap fails and the lions just keep coming back for more. There’s a lot of pressure from the builders, the owners, and local people who want to solve the problem and move on with theirs lives. I have never heard of this movie and you probably haven’t either, but if you search it up online, you may be surprised this really happened and is based on a true story.

Van Helsing (2004)

1/10
Van Helsing is a terrible movie. The story isn’t good at all and the CGI in the movie is some of the worse work I have ever seen in my life. As soon as the movie started and humans started to transform into werewolves and vampires, I just couldn’t believe how fake it all looked. On top of bad acting from everyone in the cast, Kate Beckinsale’s fake accent was so out of character for her as an actresses and an English person that I actually feel bad she was in this movie. Hugh Jackman deserved so much better than this leading role, because face it everyone remembers him as Van Helsing. There are so many stories about Dracula, even Frankenstein, but I have yet to come across such a terrible adaptation of their stories. The overall story makes little to no sense and if the writers wanted to give Jackman something heroic to do, I would have rather seen another Logan movie. I can’t recommend this film to anyone who loves these actors and actresses, let alone those who admire these classic monsters. You will never see any of them the same way again.

Troy (2004)

7/10
War is not for the faint of heart. In one of the most gruesome battles of Ancient Greece, Troy (the film) doesn’t hold back on the violence as two countries go to war over power and greed. Whether you like this movie for love or war, there is an all-star cast lead by Brad Pitt and Eric Bana who will give everything they got to survive the blood bath and win the war for their country. The film does a fantastic job highlighting crazy military tactics that were used to such brilliance, in a time way before technology was a major part of battle. To be completely honest I barely remembered any of this story from high school or college, which had me guessing what was gonna work and who was gonna survive right up until the very end. Even though the movie is three hours long, it literally breezes by the politics and focuses heavy on the major players, brutality, and the drama.

Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

5/10
It took me nine years to watch Slumdog Millionaire and for good reason. I still can’t believe to this day, that this film won Best Picture over one of the greatest movies of all-time, The Dark Knight. My opinion here may be a little basis, but after watching the film last night, I got to say it didn’t keep me engaged enough to honestly care about this guy and his story. Is this a love story? It is a criminal story? Is he really smart or just lucky? Was I watching a different version of Lion? How on earth could the questions from the game show really be a part of his disturbed childhood? I know I was predisposed to not like this movie, but nothing about this film screamed best picture released in 2008. If Slumdog Millionaire was about a kid living on the streets of Detroit, whose personal life was a disaster, and he won a million dollars…no one would like it. But because a little boy is exposed to the cruelest realities of the real world in a poor country, every one applauds when he finally makes something of himself. That may sound really harsh, but let’s be honest for a second, this entire story is very unrealistic. My girlfriend explained to me that the whole point of this story is about Jamal doing anything for love, but does he really need to go on a game show and win millions of dollars to make it work? Despite all the danger, couldn’t they just run away together? How many other movies have we all seen where people have run away with less money and less belongings. I would think being a celebrity with lots of money would draw more attention, sometimes not the attention that is always welcomed, which could have ruined their happy ending. Maybe it is the genre, the characters, or the story that ultimately didn’t win me over, or maybe I just can’t believe this film won an Oscar. Either way I look at it, I know the majority of you love this movie and will always treasure much more than I do.

The Big Sick (2017)

6/10
The Big Sick is the kind of movie that rarely gets released where I live, and if it actually did, we would have to track it down to a small independent theatre with showtimes that never line up with our personal life. Thankfully it got released to one of the major theatres and we caught this rom-com with hopes of it being the dark horse for best comedy of the year. Despite the past work of Judd Apatow, this comedy wasn’t as hilarious as the trailer made it out to be. Kumail Nanjiani gives us a pretty solid performance in a story about his actual love life. I believe they took some artistic liberties to add more drama to the situation, because what relationship would complete without conflict. His love story with Emily is very unique, but I honestly felt that this story didn’t need a major motion picture. The film dives into the deep into the abyss of culture dividers and the acceptance/rejection that comes along with it. A handful of quality actors and actresses fill out the rest of the cast, who showcase a wide range of emotions while dealing with such a unique situation. Love is supposed to conquer all, including healing all relationship wounds and curing sickness. It is tough to love someone who doesn’t love you back and Kumail finds himself in this position, which causes a downward spiral in his professional life. I got to be honest and say from his stand up routine I am not sure he had much potential anyways, but some days I think I could totally nail a set at open mic night, then I remember I’m not actually that funny. There really isn’t much to this story, no butterflies, no rainbows, no kisses in the rain, no real devotion of love that we have come to expect from so many previous films. Maybe that was the whole point of this film or maybe it wasn’t. I was never into their relationship because I could never see these two actually ending up together. You may want to root for Kumail because he is a loveable loser, but he is smart and just wants to make a life of his own. Whether you can get deeply invested in this is something you’d have to see for yourself.

Spider-Man Homecoming (2017)

8/10
I was one of the very few people on the globe who wasn’t overly excited for the new Spider-Man movie, his first since a return to Marvel. Andrew Garfield’s time was cut way too short in the suit and after given terrible material to work with in the Amazing Spider-Man 2, I can see why that particular movie bombed and they cut any web ties to him. Now Tom Holland stepped in and with his young age, fit perfectly into this high school themed movie that is filled with just about as much drama as action. There are two factors that won me over and made me feel like it deserved a high score, one was Iron Man. He is the ultimate Avenger and without his successful movies, there would be no Marvel Universe or Spider-Man homecoming. He fit the part of mentor perfectly and his appearances really allow Holland’s character to gain experience, while learning the rights and wrongs of bad situations. The second thing is this movie is entertaining. A lot of laugh out moments come at the expense of Spider-Man who has a whole bunch of new tools but zero clue how to use them. We all know by now Stan Lee is in every Marvel movie, so his cameo in this one had me bursting out laughing. I personally feel it is one of his best ones yet. Speaking of major names in the film, Michael Keaton who was once the Batman then help find McDonald’s, returns to a character quite similar to one that won him an Oscar just a few years ago. Tell me I am not the only one who thought long and hard about him playing a character who flies around like a bird, after he just tried to escape a bird character in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). Personal feelings aside, Keaton delivers another award-winning performance as a ruthless guy just trying to expose the flawed systems of the world to make a few bucks. His abilities as an actor are on full display here as he goes from screen to screen growing more angry with every passing hiccup. Like most superhero movies today, everything is about CGI. Writers will once again defy the laws of physics and gravity to give you a realistic yet somewhat unrealistic entertaining superhero movie. It would be hard to really knock this movie without getting pelted with stones or tied up with spider webs, so I’ll remind you of what you already know: Spider-Man Homecoming is worth the price of admission.

War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

Caesar is one of the greatest characters ever written. His courage, leadership, and fighting passion for the freedom and protection of apes will never be matched in any story ever told about Apes. Every horrific thing Caesar experiences in War would have broken any other ape, but love and determination to protect family was all fuel he needed to fight for his life several times over. Dodged bullets, massive explosions, spears, tanks, arrows, rain, and snow did nothing to break his back or his soul.

We have never seen the apes in such a vulnerable position before in the trilogy, so to witness them come together one final time was truly inspiring and memorizing. Koba still pays a huge part of this story despite being dead for some time. His followers have turned on Caesar and now pledge loyalty to the enemy humans, which causes more than a few nightmares for Caesar. Everything Koba wished for is on full display in this film, since all he did was thirst for blood and war. Caesar stood against that, thinking there was always a chance for peace, but found himself acting more like Koba after finding himself surrounded by one horrific moment after another. An impending war may be what this film is all about on paper, but deep within the storyline, this film is really about Caesar’s struggle with his destiny and how he may not be able to overcome his anger to achieve it.

War is an intense rollercoaster, which leaves Caesar staring death in the face time after time. Just when you think this will be it, it’s game over, it’s not. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time because the action is fast paced and nerve-racking. I never wanted this movie to end for fear of what was to come. There is a lot of blood, sweat, and tears in the movie, not only for our hero Caesar but for every single character involved. Personally, I cried. A lot. Never has an ending to a movie made me sob like a baby. People may think I’m crazy, but this entire film is a tear jerker. Some terrible things happen through out and if you are as invested in these characters and the franchise like I am, you may cry a lot. Then again, any emotions tied up in this ape universe really hinge on which side you are on, humans or apes.

There seems to be a dark cloud hanging over the entire movie, thanks to all the barbaric and evil moments scattered throughout. Woody Harrelson is the focal point of most of those moments, since he is about as heartless as they come. Some people think this may be one of his greatest performances, since he is just so cold, calculating, and reckless. He’s literally not afraid of anything – ape or human – and will do whatever it takes to stay in power. His greedy actions and killer mentality are really the driving forces of the overall story, which in the end cost him more than he could have bargained for. To say his character got what he deserved is truly an understatement, considering I couldn’t have been any happier for the way things turned out for such a bad guy like him.

On the flip side of the dark and somber theme is Bad Ape. A completely new ape came out of nowhere to bring much-needed life and comedy to such a serious film. I was very skeptical of this new character at the beginning, but he did grow on me and plays a vital part in everything that goes down in the ending. The introduction of his character opens up a whole world of possibilities for future stories, because there appears to be other apes out there in the world that are just as intelligent. Meanwhile, Maurice, Rocket, and Luca all fill out Caesar’s inner circle, each playing prominent roles in the story and the grand escape. Without these three wise leaders, who knows what would have happened to Caesar and the other apes. These loveable unsung heroes survive their own brushes with death, but those moments only add to the of beauty and importance of their characters. During a war, not everyone is willing to sacrifice their lives, but Caesar has picked the best of the best to be his co-leaders, heart and soul apes who would never hesitate to leap into action when called upon.

The musical score, by Michael Giacchino, really compliments the movie and the action as it unfolds. I felt there was some notes that were a throwback to the original apes movies, as well as some sadder piano tones that really pull at your heart-strings. There’s not a whole lot of happiness in the film, so the theme that plays when the apes plan and execute their escape is playful and upbeat. After downloading the score when I got home from opening night, I found myself fighting back the same tears I had while watching the film. This score serves a beautiful reminder of all the sacrifices humans and apes put themselves through to keep their species alive.

Despite the amazing action sequences and epic story telling, it is still really hard for me to accept the events that take place in War for the Planet of the Apes. For someone who loves the characters as much as I do, it’s not easy fighting back the tears. I know that if a new chapter is to be written about Caesar and the Apes, the previous one must end whether we/I like it or not. My broken heart will heal because the stories about these apes will live on forever. Some characters may stay the same or change over time, but there is one thing I know for sure – there will never be another series of films about Caesar and his apes as compelling as Rise, Dawn, and War.

11/10 

 

 

The Beguiled (2017)

7/10
The Beguiled is exactly the slow burning intense drama we’d expect from Sofia Coppola. The plot is very straight forward, an injured solider shows up at an all girl’s school, which causes these sheltered girls to do anything for his attention. It is hard to tell if Corporal McBurney (Colin Farrell) is playing them or playing them against each other to stay out of the war, but it’s these moments that keep us guessing while the story moves at a snail pace. When the drama finally boils over and the Corporal selects his girl, the fireworks erupt and the unthinkable happens. From that moment on everyone is on edge, as the wounded hero tries to escape and the women bond together to get rid of him. The entire film is slow, but after one rough night, everything changes and the film gets so interesting you can’t turn away. Whether it is great writing, great directing, the cast, or the subject matter, The Beguiled is one of those really good films that if you decide to watch it, you won’t be disappointed.

Despicable Me 3 (2017)

4/10
Alright, so Despicable Me 3 was not as terrible as I expected it to be. The film and the characters may be as dumb as I thought, but the three little girls really won me over in this one. Thankfully the Minions don’t have a lot of screen time which was a blessing for someone who absolutely hates them. It was tough to sit through an entire movie where Steve Carell plays the two main characters, but this twin brother story was one creative way to make another sequel, get our money, and set up a fourth film. The bad guy, Balthazar Bratt, came with a unique back story, jammed packed with the cheesy 1980’s music that should please the parents who get dragged to this. In the end though, there could be worse ways to spend 1:30 of our lives, but the kids will laugh and the parents may roll their eyes, as this big money-making machine rolls on.