Nick Picks Flicks

Click here to edit subtitle

Movie Reviews 2016

by Nick Spake | 0 comments
by Nick Spake | 0 comments
by Nick Spake | 0 comments
My Movie Reviews

5 Stars= It's Simply the Best 

4 Stars= Totally Rocks

3 Stars= Rad

2 Stars= Bad

1 Star= Terrible 

Zero= Totally Sucks

The 5th Wave

At least the 5th Hunger Games Wannabe **

Based on a novel by Rick Yancey, "The 5th Wave" is supposed to be the first entry in a trilogy. The film so obviously wants to be the next "Hunger Games" or the next "Twilight." What it doesn’t want to be is something bold and unique. All it does is feed us the same old stories we’ve seen a million times before without adding anything new.

Read more at Flickreel:

http://www.flickreel.com/the-5th-wave-review/

10 Cloverfield Lane

It's "Misery" meets "The Twilight Zone" ****

Part of what’s made "10 Cloverfield Lane" such a buzz-worthy project is that it’s not exactly a sequel. It’s also not a found footage movie like it’s predecessor. The commercials don’t even reveal if the Clover creature has anything to do with the picture.You won’t find any spoilers in this review, as "10 Cloverfield Lane" is such a fun movie to watch unfold.

Read more at Flickreel:

http://www.flickreel.com/10-cloverfield-lane-review/

20th Century Women

Welcome to the 20th century ****


Mike Mills’ "20th Century Women" couldn’t have come out at a better time. This film is a celebration of females everywhere, demonstrating that a woman can do virtually anything that a man can do. At the same time, it’s also full of warmth, humor, and beautiful performances.


Read more at Flickreel: 


https://www.flickreel.com/20th-century-women-review/

The Accountant

The Bourne Amortization ***1/2

"The Accountant" is like a Jason Bourne movie if you crossed it with "The Imitation Game," "A Beautiful Mind," or "The Da Vinci Code."

Read more at Flickreel:

https://www.flickreel.com/the-accountant-review/

Almost Christmas

A Madea Christmas without Madea **1/2

If that’s all you’re looking for, the film will get the job done. If you’re looking for a Christmas movie that’s consistently funny, original, and keeps the audience emotionally invested, though, there are far superior options available.

Read more at Flickreel:

https://www.flickreel.com/almost-christmas-review/

April and the Extraordinary World

Extraordinary indeed ****

The best word to describe the experience is “magical,” which is ironic since April and the Extraordinary World is grounded in a world of science.

Read more at Flickreel:

http://www.flickreel.com/april-and-the-extraordinary-world-review/

Arrival

Oscar season has arrived ****1/2

Denis Villeneuve’s “Arrival” would make a superb double feature with Jeff Nichols’s “Midnight Special,” which hit theaters earlier this year. Both movies have phenomenal buildup, calling to mind Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” “Arrival” in particular is perhaps the closest any contemporary film has come to capturing the wonder of a classic “Twilight Zone” episode. Like Rod Serling’s best works, “Arrival” is a poignant and clever piece of science fiction with provocative themes that parallel our own society. Above all else, this is a challenging mystery that keeps you guessing until the final act, which fortunately doesn’t disappoint.

 

Amy Adams, who’s still overdue for an Oscar, gives one of her finest performances as Dr. Louise Banks. This linguist becomes the government’s go-to girl when several UFOs arrive on earth. Upon making first contact, the military quickly finds that the aliens are unfamiliar with the human language. These extraterrestrials primarily communicate through visuals that kind of look like inkblots. Banks is tasked with not only interpreting their language, but also teaching the aliens how to converse with humans.

 

“Arrival” features great supporting performances from Forest Whitaker as a US military colonel and Jeremy Renner as a hunky mathematician. However, the film belongs to Adams, who creates a strong, smart, and driven protagonist at the center of the biggest event in human history. Banks is already coping with the loss of her daughter, who died for a terminal illness. Yet, this doesn’t stop her from pushing forward with the weight of the world on her shoulders. Adams brings a genuine sense of awe to her role and keeps us invested every step of the way.

 

The aliens are also unique creations with some of the most distinctive designs since “District 9.” Their spaceships in particular are highly inventive, looking like eclipsed moons on the outside. On this inside, though, they’re reminiscent of the Star Gate from “2001: A Space Odyssey.” With a budget of only $50 million, Villeneuve accomplishes so much on a visual level than Michael Bay, Roland Emmerich, or Zach Snyder could with $200 million. While the effects here are extraordinary, they really aren’t the focus here. This is a movie about communication, which is especially significant in an era where so many cultures seem divided and disconnected. If we could all learn to speak a universal language, though, we might just move towards a brighter future.

 

There’s an unwavering sense of uncertainty throughout much of “Arrival,” as Banks attempts to uncover why these aliens are here. Have they come to enrich humankind or cause our downfall? Eric Heisserer’s screenplay brings everything full circle in the end with a twist that surprisingly doesn’t feel forced. Villeneuve, who previously gave us “Prisoners” and “Sicario,” continues to prove that he’s among our most impressive up-and-coming directors. One can only hope he’ll bring the same passion and intelligence to the upcoming “Blade Runner 2049.” Until then, “Arrival” is a modern sci-fi classic that’ll make audiences think while also influencing them to keep watching the stars.

Assassin's Creed

A hidden blade to the heart **

Gamers everywhere have held onto the hope that "Assassin’s Creed" would be the adaptation that finally gets it right. Alas, not even a gifted filmmaker like Justin Kurzel can break the video game movie curse.

Read more at Flickreel:

https://www.flickreel.com/assassins-creed-review/

Bad Moms

These moms aren't bad enough **1/2

Despite having a capable cast, an intriguing setup, and even a sincere moral, the film ultimately feels like a half-assed Mother’s Day present. Although to be fair, it is better than that other recent movie about moms.

Read more at Flickreel:

https://www.flickreel.com/bad-moms-review/

Bad Santa 2

Bad, but not in a good way *1/2

Like its predecessor, "Bad Santa 2" is vulgar, insensitive, and at times even heartless. Where the first film was naughty in all the right ways, though, this sequel is naughty in all the wrong ways.

Read more at Flickreel:

https://www.flickreel.com/bad-santa-2-review/

Batman: The Killing Joke

The One Where Batman and Batgirl... You Know ***1/2

If fans can get past the first thirty minutes, they’re going to get The Killing Joke movie they’ve always wanted.

Read more at Flickreel:

https://www.flickreel.com/batman-the-killing-joke-review/

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Zach Snyder really needs to watch the CW ***

Although "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" is one of the most anticipated movies of the year, everybody seems to be walking in with a certain level of doubt.

Read more at Flickreel:

http://www.flickreel.com/nick-picks-does-batman-v-superman-save-the-dc-extended-universe/

The BFG

The Big F$*#ing Giant ****

Since Spielberg, Dahl, and Disney seem like such a natural fit, it’s surprising that all three of them haven’t come together already. "The BFG" delivers pretty much what one would expect from this trio of creative juggernauts, though.

Read more at Flickreel:

https://www.flickreel.com/the-bfg-review/

The Birth of a Nation

Black Lives Matter: The Movie ****1/2

“The Birth of a Nation” has been one of the talked about movies of the past several months. The film was a huge hit at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and got purchased by Fox Searchlight Pictures for an unprecedented $17.5 million. Of course not all the buzz surrounding “The Birth of a Nation” is positive. Director/Writer/Producer/Star Nate Parker has attracted a fair deal of controversy due to his 1999 rape charges, not to mention his more recent accusations of homophobia. Then there’s the fact that the film ironically bears the same title as D. W. Griffith’s 1915 silent picture, which depicted the KKK as heroes.

 

As for the film itself, though, “The Birth of a Nation” is a nothing short of a great American drama. The film is reminiscent of other modern classics about prejudice, such as “12 Years a Slave,” “Selma,” and even “Django Unchained.” Yet, this true story still stands out as a unique experience through its fascinating depiction of slavery and faith. At the center of everything is Nate Parker, who might be a controversial figure. Like Roman Polanski, however, his dedication, passion, and talent cannot be denied. Sometimes you need to separate the artist from the art.

 

Parker plays Nat Turner, an African American slave who learns how to read at a young age. His owners only allow him to study the Bible, though. Turning grows up to be a preacher, becoming a leader in the eyes of his fellow slaves. While Turner’s circumstances are by no means ideal, he at least has an education, a beautiful wife (Aja Naomi King), and a position that grants him special privileges. Thus, most slaves would kill to be in his shoes.

 

To maintain this lifestyle, Turner is content with his keeping his head down and obeying his masters. This changes when he’s forced to go on the road and preach to other slaves throughout the south. While on tour, Turner comes to understand just how savage and inhuman slavery is. Unable to stand idly by anymore, he’s inspired to spark a slave rebellion. Of course this means risking the life he’s worked so hard to build for himself.

 

Parker delivers a raw, commanding performance as Turner, carrying much of the film. Yet, Parker also has a strong supporting cast to work with. Armie Hammer in particular gives a multi-layered performance as Turner’s master, Samuel. Far from the most sadistic character in the film, Samuel actually treats his slaves with a certain degree of human decency. He even goes out of his way to help Turner on occasion. At the same time, however, Samuel still talks down to his slaves and treats them like property. If they show any sign of disobedience, he won’t think twice about cracking the whip.

 

Needless to say, “The Birth of a Nation” is not an easy film to watch. The movie is full shocking imagery, much of which involves Jackie Earle Haley as a cruel slave catcher. For every brutal scene, though, there’s an uplifting moment that captures the power of the human spirit. It’s all lovingly crafted by Parker, who packs his film with breathtaking cinematography, a haunting score, and unwavering honesty. Sometimes the Christ symbolism can be a little too on the nose, but it doesn’t distract from the film’s underlying message: preaching to people is one thing, but following through is quite another.

Blair Witch

Back to the Woods **

"The Blair Witch Project" admittedly isn’t a movie that holds up phenomenally. If you were to show the film to a contemporary audience, they’d probably view it as a relic from a forgotten time. Nevertheless, it does have its place in cinematic history, launching the found footage genre into the mainstream and demonstrating how the Internet can help build hype for a movie. For the time it was released, "The Blair Witch Project" did have a unique style, chilling atmosphere, and strong tension that kept building.

 

Just one year after the film’s release, we got "Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2." It was stupid, half-assed, and had virtually no connection to its predecessor, but at least that made it memorable. Another decade and a half down the line, we get "Blair Witch," a direct sequel to the cultural phenomenon that started it all. From a filmmaking and storytelling standpoint, "Blair Witch" is technically a better follow-up than "Book of Shadows." However, it’s also arguably the most forgettable entry in this franchise, taking no chances and basically copying the original.

 

James Allen McCune stars as James Donahue, Heather Donahue’s sister. Many years after his sibling went missing in Black Hills Forest, James goes looking for the illusive Blair Witch. A documentary filmmaker named Lisa (Callie Hernandez), a couple fellow college students (Brandon Scott, Corbin Reid), and two locals (Wes Robinson, Valorie Curry) come along as well. Of course wandering into the woods turns out to be the biggest mistake of their lives, as the gang is tormented by the mysterious forces that go bump in the night.

 

Ironically, the best aspect of "Blair Witch" is its production values. Since this is the 21st century, our protagonists are no longer required to just carry around a video camera. They’re able to use headsets, webcams, and drones to capture sights from different angles. At the same time, "Blair Witch" still maintains an armature filmmaking style that’s in the spirit of the 1999 film. It’s interesting to see how modern technology functions in this universe, although cell phones and GPS will always be useless in horror movies.

 

Aside from this, though, "Blair Witch" mainly just feels like a waste of time. Virtually every scare, set piece, and idea feels recycled. Every time it seems like the film is going to try something different, it just reverts back to the same old clichés. At the center of everything are a group of incredibly stupid characters that just make one stupid decision after another. It also doesn’t help that we’ve gotten countless other recovered footage movies since "The Blair Witch Project," from "REC," to "Cloverfield," to "Paranormal Activity"

 

What makes "Blair Witch" especially disappointing is that it was directed by Adam Wingard, who made the wickedly entertaining "You're Next" and "The Guest." One would expect a filmmaker as inventive as Wingard to take this franchise to a whole new level of horror. Yet, the most interesting part of "Blair Witch" is how the studio managed to keep it under wraps for so long. Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett add nothing to the Blair Witch mythology and resolve no loose ends. Granted, you could argue that the less you know about the Blair Witch, the better. If that’s the case, though, why bother making a sequel at all?

The Boss

Who's the boss? **1/2

While McCarthy’s comedic gift does salvage a good portion of the film, the misses are admittedly hard to forgive.

Read more at Flickreel:

http://www.flickreel.com/the-boss-review/

Central Intelligence

The beginning of beautiful friendship ***1/2


It might sound like an odd combination, but Hart and Johnson are an extremely endearing duo. While not on par with Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling in "The Nice Guys," they do save "Central Intelligence" from being just another buddy movie.


Read more at Flickreel: 


https://www.flickreel.com/nick-flicks-why-dwayne-johnson-and-kevin-hart-make-central-intelligence/

Captain America: Civil War

Marvel vs. DC? No competition ****1/2

Where "Batman v Superman" felt rushed, overstuffed, and dramatically uneven, "Civil War" is almost perfectly paced, well-adjusted, and  thought-provoking throughout. It’s further evidence  that Marvel understands how to produce a great  crossover, not to mention an outstanding superhero  movie overall.

Read more at Story Monsters Ink:

http://www.fivestarpublications.net/storymonsters_dir/pdf/smi-june-2016.pdf

The Choice

Pull the plug *1/2

Nicholas Sparks is to romance what Adam Sandler is to comedy. Whenever you see their name on a project, chances are its not going to challenge the audience in the slightest. The film is just going to repeat the same old clichés and offer nothing new. The Choice is yet another Nicholas Sparks adaption where you can see every redundant plot point from a mile away.

Read more at Flickreel:

http://www.flickreel.com/the-choice-review/

Collateral Beauty

As if we didn't already have enough movies with "Beauty" in the title **

There’s a fine line between being genuinely inspiring and shoving inspiration down our throats. "Collateral Beauty" sadly falls into the latter category.

Read more at Flickreel:

https://www.flickreel.com/collateral-beauty-review/

The Conjuring 2

James Wan conjures up something spooky ****

Even if it doesn’t quite reach the same heights of a horror masterpiece like "The Babadook," "The Conjuring 2" will give you the chills in all the right ways.

Read more at Flickreel:

http://www.flickreel.com/the-conjuring-2-review/

The Dark Horse

Checkmate! ****

On one hand, "The Dark Horse" is a traditional underdog story about a team of misfits and the coach who believed in them. On the other hand, it’s about so much more.

Read more at Flickreel:

http://www.flickreel.com/the-dark-horse-review/

Deadpool

A one man Suicide Squad ****


Just as superheroes live by a code, so do their film adaptations. Movie studios never allow costumed vigilantes to use four-letter words excessively, senselessly take lives, or do anything that might result in an R-rating. Since Deadpool doesn’t consider himself a superhero, however, his solo film doesn’t play by any of the rules. As a matter of fact, he practically extends a middle finger to those rules. In his feature film directorial debut, Tim Miler not only gives us the Deadpool movie fans have been waiting for, but also the anti-superhero movie we’ve been waiting for.

 

Ryan Reynolds reprises the role of Deadpool/Wade Wilson, who was last seen in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." Anybody who was disappointed by Deadpool’s appearance in that travesty can rest assured that this reboot more than compensates. Much like "X-Men: Days of Future Past," its essentially one big apology. In addition to poking fun at the previous depiction of Deadpool, this film takes shots at everything from Reynold’s portrayal of the Green Lantern to Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of Wolverine. Even the opening credits take jabs at numerous superhero tropes and celebrity egos, perfectly setting the tone.

 

As for the story, Wade Wilson is a wisecracking mercenary with nothing to live for. His life is given purpose upon falling for Morena Baccarin's Vanessa, the only person on the planet who’s arguably had an even more messed up upbringing. Just as Wade finally finds true happiness, he gets diagnosed with Cancer. With nowhere else to turn, Wade signs up for a program that’ll cure his fatal disease and give him mutant powers in the process. There turns out to be a catch, as the experiment leaves Wade horribly disfigured. What’s more, the big bad in charge plans to use Wade’s newfound healing powers as a weapon. Since Wade doesn’t respond well to authority, he breaks free and sets out to cure himself, leaving a trail of bloodshed behind.   

 

On paper, "Deadpool" might sound like a pretty straightforward comic book flick. The plot admittedly isn’t anything special, but that’s not what we’re here for. We’re here for the hilarious one-liners and over-the-top violence. "Deadpool" more than delivers on the laughs, most notably giving us the greatest Stan Lee cameo ever and the greatest Marvel post-credits scene ever. Meanwhile, the gleefully gory action sequences put the PG-13 "Total Recall," "RoboCop," and "Terminator: Genisys" to shame. The final result is like a cross between "The Mask," "Kick-Ass," and "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World," rarely having a dull moment.

 

Reynolds lives and breaths Deadpool, especially now that he’s been given a witty script to work with. This film is far from a one-man show, however. Baccarin is enormously charming as the beautiful love interest while T. J. Miller is well suited to play the nerdy best friend archetype. Even Karan Soni makes the most out of an extended cameo as a taxi driver. We also get some great work from Stefan Kapičić as Colossus and Brianna Hildebrand as Negasonic Teenage Warhead, the only two X-Men 20th Century Fox could afford.

 

The one character who’s sadly a stick in the mud is Ed Skrein’s Francis, the mutant who ruins Wade’s life and thus becomes his prime target. He’s a serviceable bad guy and Skrein does a fine job. Given how much fun the rest of the cast is, though, it’s kind of a shame that the villain is duller than everyone else by comparison. Let’s just say that Loki he ain’t.

 

Fortunately, what the film does get right above all else is Deadpool himself. If you’re officially sick of superheroes that are constantly brooding, making important speeches, and putting themselves on a moral pedestal, Deadpool is the answer to your prayers. Aside from a few serious moments that expose his inner turmoil, Deadpool’s basically a trigger-happy cartoon who does whatever he wants and says whatever he wants, but also fights for a worthy cause in the end. Along the way, he takes no prisoners and pulls no punches, especially when it comes to breaking the fourth wall.

Doctor Strange

What doesn't kill you makes you stranger ****

Just as "Doctor Strange" has unlimited potential, the same can be said about this  series itself.

http://www.fivestarpublications.net/storymonsters_dir/pdf/smi-december-2016.pdf

Don't Breathe

See no evil ***1/2

"Don’t Breathe" is well crafted, effectively acted, and full of clever twists.

Read more at Flickreel:

https://www.flickreel.com/dont-breathe-review/

Don't Think Twice

Don't think twice about seeing this one. Just go see it! ****

Mike Birbiglia’s "Don’t Think Twice" feels like the first film to truly address the hardships of being a comedian. It’s uncomfortable, challenging, and even tragic, but also full of passion, good cheer, and of course humor.

Read more at Flickreel:

https://www.flickreel.com/dont-think-twice-review/

Durant's Never Closes

Open us to us, Mr. Durant ***1/2

Sitting down to watch "Durant’s Never Closes," chances are nobody in the theater will have any idea who Jack Durant even is. The more time we spend with the title character of Travis Mills’ film, though, the more we want to soak him up like a sponge.

Read more at Flickreel:

http://www.flickreel.com/durants-never-closes-review/

Eddie the Eagle

How can you go wrong when Wolverine is your couch? ****

Even if "Eddie the Eagle" can feel romanticized, you’d have to be the biggest sourpuss in the world not to be won over by it.

Read more at Flickreel:

http://www.flickreel.com/eddie-the-eagle-review/

Edge of Seventeen

Edge of your seat high school drama! ****

Steinfeld had a strong supporting role as Mark Ruffalo’s daughter in "Begin Again" and charmed everyone’s socks off as Emily in "Pitch Perfect 2." In "Edge of Seventeen," she pulls off a truly remarkable feat. She takes a whiny, self-absorbed, pretentious, anti-social teenager and makes her 100% lovable.

Read more at Flickreel:

https://www.flickreel.com/edge-of-seventeen-review/

Elvis & Nixon

When Elvis met Dick ***1/2


The meeting that occurred between Elvis Presley and President Richard Nixon in 1970 was a fairly insignificant event in US history. Since Presley and Nixon were such fascinating individuals, though, even the most minor aspects of their lives are still pretty interesting to hear about. That’s probably the best way to describe "Elvis & Nixon."


Read more at Flickreel: 


http://www.flickreel.com/elvis-nixon-review/


Everybody Wants Some

A film that more than earns two exclamation points!! ****

In the same vein of the director’s various other projects, Everybody Wants Some!! is light on plot, but heavy on character, atmosphere, and wisdom.

Read more at Flickreel:

http://www.flickreel.com/everybody-wants-some-review/

Eye in the Sky

Always watching over us ****

When people think of war-related pictures, lots of explosions, soldiers charging into combat, and nonstop chaos usually come to mind. "Eye in the Sky," however, views modern warfare from a unique perspective – a bird’s eye perspective as a matter of fact.

Read more at Flickreel:

http://www.flickreel.com/eye-in-the-sky-review/

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Gotta find em all! ****

Is "Fantastic Beasts" as magical as "Harry Potter?" Not quite. It doesn’t have the same emotional impact or sense of mystery. However, it does expand upon the wizarding world with fresh ideas, characters, and locations.

Read more at Flickreel:

https://www.flickreel.com/fantastic-beasts-and-where-to-find-them-review/

Fences

Three strikes or a home run? ****1/2

Although the film is clearly based on a play, you can still feel every emotion as if you’re watching these performers on a stage. "Fences" can only be described as a powerhouse of emotion, working so much passion under one roof.

Read more at Flickreel:

https://www.flickreel.com/fences-review/

Finding Dory

Hooked on Dory ****

Like "Finding Nemo," this is another touching,  funny, and meaningful adventure full of delightful  characters. While "Finding Dory" doesn’t surpass the  original 2003 masterpiece, it was worth waiting 13 years for this follow-up.

Read more at Story Monsters Ink:

http://www.fivestarpublications.net/storymonsters_dir/pdf/smi-july-2016.pdf

The Finest Hours

Not to be confused with 13 Hours ***

If you’re in the right mindset for a disaster/rescue picture, "The Finest Hours" will efficiently get the job done. It doesn’t rank up there with "The Poseidon Adventure" or the second half of "Titanic." As far as movies like this go, though, the visuals are tasteful, the performances are uniformly solid, and there are several genuinely intense moments.

Read more at Flickreel:

http://www.flickreel.com/the-finest-hours-review/

Genius

More competent than genius **1/2


"Genius" leaves you wanting more. If only the script had an editor like Maxwell Perkins.


Read more at Flickreel:


https://www.flickreel.com/genius-review/

Ghostbusters

Take THAT Internet! ***1/2

Is it as good as the original? No. Was this a reboot that had to exist? No. Does this outing feel like a real "Ghostbusters" movie, however? Yes, yes it does.

Read more at Flickreel:

https://www.flickreel.com/nick-flicks-was-the-internet-right-or-wrong-about-ghostbusters/

Hacksaw Ridge

Directed by He Must Who Not Be Named ****1/2

Much like Nate Parker’s "The Birth of a Nation," "Hacksaw Ridge" is a great movie from a controversial man.

Read more at Flickreel:

https://www.flickreel.com/hacksaw-ridge-review/

Hail, Caesar

Hail, Clooney ***1/2

If you’re a fan of 1950’s cinema, you’ll likely find something to enjoy in Hail, Caesar!

Read more at Flickreel:

http://www.flickreel.com/hail-caesar-review/

Hardcore Henry

A unique perspective ***1/2


"Hardcore Henry" is one of the better video game movies out there. Granted, the film isn’t based on a video game or about video games, but there’s no denying that director Ilya Naishuller was inspired by first-person shooters.


Read more at The Nerd Repository: 


http://nerdrepository.com/movie-review-hardcore-henry/

Hello, My Name is Doris

Sally Field, back in business ***1/2

Despite having two Best Actress Oscars to her name, we don’t see Sally Field in nearly enough leading roles these days. In "Hello, My Name Is Doris," Field proves that she’s still more than capable of elevating a film’s overall quality.

Read more at Flickreel:

http://www.flickreel.com/hello-my-name-is-doris-review/

The Girl on the Train

Gone Girl on a Train ***1/2

Although “The Girl on the Train” is a perfectly solid psychological thriller, it has the misfortune of coming out a couple years after “Gone Girl.” Watching director Tate Taylor’s adaptation of Erin Cressida Wilson’s hit novel, you can’t help but think of David Fincher’s harrowing style and Gillian Flynn’s intricate storytelling. That’s not to say the film is a cheap knockoff. It’s a well-made, well-plotted mystery that leaves you on pins and needles. When stacking both movies up against each other, though, “The Girl on the Train” can almost feel like a Lifetime movie.

 

Emily Blunt turns in a heartrending performance as Rachel, who’s the definition of a train wreck. She drinks because she’s unhappy and she’s unhappy because she drinks. Although Rachel doesn’t remember everything about her marriage to Tom (Justin Theroux), she knows that it ended badly. Tom is now married to Rebecca Ferguson’s Anna and has a beautiful daughter with her. Rachel constantly stalks her ex’s new family, but for some reason they never file a restraining order.

 

To cope with her crippling loneliness and sorrow, Rachel rides the train on a daily basis. Along the way, she passes by a house owned by Megan (Haley Bennett) and Scott (Luke Evans). Although they seem like a happy couple, Rachel eventually discovers that Megan is having an affair. The plot thickens when Megan goes missing and is presumed dead. Rachel has her suspicions about who’s responsible. Given her alcoholic nature, though, she’s not entirely sure what to believe.

 

This is what makes “The Girl on the Train” such a compelling mystery. The audience is forced to place their faith in a person who isn’t at all reliable. Sometimes Rachel remembers things one way and sometimes she remembers them another. Much like Elliot in “Mr. Robot” or the Narrator in “Fight Club,” her mind is all over the place. That makes putting the puzzle together all the more fun. Along the way, Blunt creates a genuinely sympathetic character we come to root for.

 

While “The Girl on the Train” is an entertaining whodunit, the final destination is a bit of a letdown. The ending is by no means bad, but the explanation probably won’t catch anybody off guard. Again, this is simply why the superior film is “Gone Girl,” which managed to be unpredictable while also ingeniously tying everything together. Even if “The Girl on the Train” isn’t as smart as it thinks it is, it’s still hard not admire the performances and craft. It’s certainly a ride worth taking, despite having to live in “Gone Girl’s” shadow. 

Hell or High Water

No Country For Old Men... but less disturbing ****


"Hell or High Water" is one of the most absorbing games of cat and mouse you’ll ever see on the silver screen. This is largely because the cats and mice in question are all empathetic characters. There really aren’t any good guys or bad guys here.


Read more at Nerd Repository: 


http://nerdrepository.com/movie-review-hell-high-water/

How to Be Single

How is "Deadpool" a better date movie? **1/2

"How to Be Single" doesn’t dig nearly as deep as it could have. Plus, the film isn’t nearly as funny as it could have been.

Read more at Flickreel:

http://www.flickreel.com/how-to-be-single-review/

The Infiltrator

Breaking pretty good ***1/2


"The Infiltrator" is kind of like "Breaking Bad" meets "Narcos," with elements of "The Americans" and "Homeland" too.


Read more at Flickreel: 


https://www.flickreel.com/the-infiltrator-review/

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Jack Reacher 2: Jack Reachier ***

Compared to the last couple "Mission: Impossible" movies, "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back" isn’t one of Cruise’s best action flicks. Nevertheless, the film is still exciting, witty, and occasionally even kind of kickass.

Read more at Flickreel:

https://www.flickreel.com/jack-reacher-never-go-back-review/

The Jungle Book

Now if we could just get that live-action "TaleSpin" movie ****

Gripping, poignant, and emotionally involving, we have a new king of the jungle.   

Read more in the May issue of Story Monsters Ink:

http://www.fivestarpublications.net/storymonsters_dir/pdf/smi-may-2016.pdf

Keanu

He's the One ***1/2


You know how lazy, uninspired, and utterly pointless "Ride Along 2" was? Well "Keanu" is the complete opposite.


Read more at Flickreel:


http://www.flickreel.com/keanu-review/

Keeping Up with the Jones

At least they aren't the Kardashians **

There are so many inspired ideas here that should hit bull’s-eyes. Every time a joke is perfectly set up, though, the film somehow fires a blank.

Read more at Flickreel:

https://www.flickreel.com/keeping-up-with-the-joneses-review/

Kubo and the Two Strings

Two strings up ****1/2

In many respects, "Kubo" feels like "The Legend of Zelda" movie we’ve always wanted to see, especially calling "The Wind Waker" and "Ocarina of Time" to mind.

Read more at Flickreel:

https://www.flickreel.com/kubo-and-the-two-strings-review/

Kung Fu Panda 3

Enter the panda ***1/2


"Kung Fu Panda 3" doesn’t quite exceed its predecessors, but it does keep the ball rolling and bring our hero’s journey full circle.


Read more at Flickreel: 


http://www.flickreel.com/kung-fu-panda-3-review/

La La Land

Where dreams become reality *****

The movie musical has made a major comeback over the past decade and a half. On the whole, though, every film has either been a Broadway adaptation like “Chicago” or a jukebox musical like “Moulin Rogue.” The only original movie musicals have been animated features, such as “Frozen” and “Moana.” Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land” is a true treasure: a modern movie musical with unique songs, distinctive characters, and an inspired love story. Although the film is set in contemporary Los Angeles, it has the look and feel of a musical from cinema’s Golden Age. What we’re left with is a miraculous film that has one foot in the past and one foot in the present, finding a pitch perfect balance.

 

From the opening number, “La La Land” is an enchanting experience that never lets up. As the music builds, a seemingly mundane California freeway is suddenly transformed into a blissful celebration with over 100 dancers. Chazelle’s film is full of scenes like this, draping everyday settings with eye-popping colors and kinetic energy. He gives LA an otherworldly presence, turning the City of Flowers and Sunshine into the City of Dreams. At the heart of this spectacular backdrop are two fools with the audacity to dream big.

 

Emma Stone deserves to take home this year’s Best Actress Oscar for her stunning performance as Mia. Reminiscent of Stone’s own life story, Mia is an enormously gifted actress who rolled the dice and moved to LA. In a city full of aspiring artists, however, it’s almost impossible to get noticed. She pours her heart and soul into every audition, but the casting directors never give their undivided attention. In addition to being an exquisite singer and dancer, Stone captures all the heartache and struggle of being a performer while also maintaining the passion that drives people to keep going. She most notably nails it in a captivating musical number entitled “Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” which is sure to be a frontrunner for Best Original Song.

 

Starring opposite Stone is Ryan Gosling as Sebastian. He’s a serious musician who wants nothing more to open his own jazz club. Alas, he finds himself playing Christmas carols for a demanding restaurant owner, played by J. K. Simmons. The jazz pianist eventually sets his pride aside and takes a steady gig with John Legend’s Keith. While the money is good, Seb fears that he’ll never get to play the kind of music he cherishes so much. This begs the age-old question, can an artist be happy with their work and be a success as well?

 

Stone and Gosling previously appeared side by side in “Crazy, Stupid, Love” and “Gangster Squad.” In “La La Land,” they solidify their place as one of cinema’s greatest onscreen pairings. Every time these two are together, they unleash a wave of chemistry that practically drowns the audience in the sentiment of romance. They share a particularly wonderful dance sequence against the LA night sky, calling Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers to mind. Another number literally defies gravity, elevating our lovers above the stars so they can dance on air.

 

With flamboyant production design, lively lighting, and an infectious musical score from composer Justin Hurwitz, “La La Land” appropriately feels like a daydream. At the same time, though, it doesn’t shy away from harsh reality. The film acknowledges all the hardships and sacrifices that come with pursuing your dream. Even if your dream does come true, it might not play out exactly how you envisioned. No matter what road you take, however, you’re always going to look back and wonder what might have been.

 

This leads to the film’s superb finale, which I won’t dare spoil here. Let’s just say it encompasses everything that makes movies magical. Chazelle’s last picture, “Whiplash,” was a remarkable feat, especially for such a young filmmaker. His follow-up outing is somehow even better, standing out as the best film of his career, the best film of the year, and maybe even the best film of the decade.

The Legend of Tarzan

God among ape ***


The film pretty much delivers exactly what you’d expect from a Tarzan movie, but kind of leaves you wanting more. It’s not the greatest depiction of the character, but it’s not the worst either.


Read more at Flickreel: 


https://www.flickreel.com/the-legend-of-tarzan-review/

The Light Between Oceans

Guiding Light: The Movie ***1/2

Despite its cheesy, contrived moments, "The Light Between Oceans" is elevated thanks to some first-rate performances, beautiful production values, and a plot that keeps you emotionally invested.

Read more at Flickreel:

https://www.flickreel.com/the-light-between-oceans-review/

Lion

Lion 3: Straight to Video ****1/2


“Lion” is kind of like “Slumdog Millionaire” meets “Finding Dory.” That might sound an odd combination, but it’s the perfect way to describe Garth Davis’ powerful movie. With such a rich, remarkable story, “Lion” has the essence of a modern fable or an animated feature. You could especially see a director like Don Bluth tackling this material, although the human characters would probably be substituted with mice, dinosaurs, or well… lions. Believe it or not, this film is based on a non-fiction novel from Saroo Brierley. Of course even if “Lion” were a pure work of fantasy, it would still be a gripping, moving, and inspiring experience about never giving up.

 

This fantastic tale begins with young Sunny Pawar as Saroo, a five-year-old Indian boy who gets separated from his older brother at a train station. Falling asleep on a train, he wakes up in another country miles away from his family. Saroo attempts to navigate his way back home, but isn’t entirely sure where he’s from. After a series of misadventures, Saroo is eventually taken in by an adoption agency. He finds a loving home with two Australian parents, played by Nicole Kidman and David Wenham in wonderful supporting performances. He also gets an adopted brother (Divian Ladwa), who goes on to become black sheep of the family.

 

Another twenty-five years down the line, Saroo is an educated college student with a caring girlfriend (Rooney Mara). He additionally maintains a meaningful relationship with his adopted parents, always acting as their rock. Although everything seems to be working out for Saroo, part of him feels empty inside nonetheless. He becomes determined to find his birth parents in hopes of getting closure. Even with Google Earth at his disposal, however, the chances of a reunion appear slim.

 

Dev Patel continues to mature nicely as an actor, taking on the role of adult Saroo. He molds him into a likable, charming young man with great sorrow underneath the surface. As Saroo searches for his roots, he begins to dig himself into a pit of disappear. As all hope dwindles away, he begins to alienate his loved ones. Even when Saroo is at his worst, though, the audience identifies with his pain every step of the way. Kidman is particularly strong as Saroo’s adopted mother, who unconditionally loves her children and wants nothing more than to see them happy. Without an ounce of jealousy or cynicism, she completely supports Saroo’s endeavor to find his long-lost family.

 

This is a key example of why “Lion” is so uplifting. It’s a sincere film that doesn’t try to shove inspiration down your throat like “Collateral Beauty.” While there are certainly romanticized moments, the film truly earns those scenes through fleshed out writing, effective imagery, and characters that overflow with humanity. Director Garth Davis has primarily work in television, notably the “Top of the Lake” miniseries. “Lion” marks his first feature film and it’s a damn impressive directorial debut. He fully delivers in the emotional department with a film that understands the bonds of family. It may be familiar territory, but “Lion” reminds us why the universal theme of family seems to be at the center of every movie.

Live by Night

Will Affleck's career live another night? **1/2


Although Ben is back on top of the world right now, "Live by Night" is something of a step backwards for the A-lister.


https://www.flickreel.com/live-by-night-review/

Loving

I'm lovin' it! ****

"Loving" is a dramatization of arguably the most significant interracial marriage in American history. It’s actually surprising that Hollywood has taken almost fifty years to produce a major motion picture about the Loving v. Virginia case. Of course there was a 1996 made for television movie starring Timothy Hutton and Lela Rochon. Even in today’s supposedly progressive world, the themes depicted in "Loving" remain as relevant as ever. Sure, interracial marriage might not be prohibited in the US anymore, but audiences can still draw parallels to same-sex marriage, which only just became legal in all fifty states. Racial tensions also continue to run high in our country with many people taking sides. In that sense, "Loving" couldn’t have come at a better time, especially now that Donald Trump is president.

 

Joel Edgerton turns in some of his finest work as Richard Loving, a white man from Virginia. Richard is deeply in love with an African American woman named Mildred Jeter, beautifully played by Ruth Negga. When Mildred becomes pregnant, Richard doesn’t think twice about asking her to marry him. Since it’s 1958, though, interracial marriage is still outlawed in their home state. The couple tries to beat the system by getting hitched in Washington, D.C. After returning to Virginia, however, they’re both quickly incarcerated.

 

Richard and Mildred are given two options. They can either remain in jail or find a new home in Washington. The two naturally choose the latter, but the adjustment isn’t easy. As much as Mildred loves Richard, it pains her to be so far away from her family in Virginia. It appears that the couple might be able to finally get some justice when a politician named Bernie Cohen (Nick Kroll) catches wind of their situation. He believes that the case could go all the way to the Supreme Court, abolishing the interracial marriage ban for good.

 

Mildred is willing to get in front of the cameras and voice her opinion. Richard is much more reluctant to put himself out there, fearing that his family will be harassed and killed. He’s willing to take a risk, though, if it will make his wife happy and lead to a brighter future. This is largely what makes "Loving" such a great film. Even when Richard and Mildred aren’t speaking to each other, they’re always on the same page. Life might not always be simple for them, but the audience never doubts for a second that these two adore one another and will overcome any obstacle together. The bond they share is truly powerful and poignant, reminding us that love should be the only factor when it comes marriage.

 

Writer/Director Jeff Nichols is known for making very understated films that manage to say a lot with minimal dialog or action. His signature subtlety is present throughout the entirety of "Loving." Nichols is given numerous opportunities to take a more straightforward or obvious route, but he avoids melodrama around every corner. Instead, he gets the film’s messages across through low-key direction and multi-layered performances. The result is a gripping, thrilling, and inspiring experience audiences everywhere should take to heart.

Maggie's Plan

A woman with a plan ***1/2

While "Maggie’s Plan" is probably an acquired taste, there is a lot to admire in this mixed bag, particularly our leading lady.

Read more at Flickreel:

http://www.flickreel.com/maggies-plan-review/

The Magnificent Seven

The Magnificent Washington and Pratt... and Five Other Guys ***1/2

While the characters here are by no means magnificent, they are interesting enough to carry a film.

Read more at Flickreel:

https://www.flickreel.com/the-magnificent-seven-review/

Manchester by the Sea

The depressed man and the sea ****1/2

The film comes from writer/director Kenneth Lonergan, who previously worked on "You Can Count on Me," "Analyze This," and "Gangs of New York." "Manchester by the Sea" is perhaps his magnum opus, turning in one of the most authentic representations of grief in modern cinema.

Read more at The Nerd Repository:

http://nerdrepository.com/movie-review-manchester-sea/

Masterminds

Stupid is as stupid does **1/2

Despite all the talent involved, "Masterminds" never meets its full potential. That’s not to say the film is devoid of humor, but there aren’t quite enough laughs here to warrant a recommendation.

Read more at Flickreel:

https://www.flickreel.com/masterminds-review/

Me Before You

Daenerys Targaryen saves the day ***1/2

"Me Before You" is far from a perfect movie. It’s cliché, sappy, and mostly predictable. This adaptation of Jojo Moyes’ romance novel does have one magical thing going for it, however: Emilia Clarke.

Read more at Flickreel:

http://www.flickreel.com/nick-flicks-why-emilia-clarke-saves-me-before-you/

Midnight Special

I'm special! ****


"Midnight Special" contains some of the best buildup and atmosphere modern sci-fi has to offer.


Read more at Flickreel: 


http://www.flickreel.com/midnight-special-review/

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

And I wasn't even cordially invited ****

"Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates" offers two invaluable comedic duos for the price of one.

Read more at Flickreel:

https://www.flickreel.com/mike-and-dave-need-wedding-dates-review/

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Harry Potter and the School for Gifted Youngsters ***1/2

Despite feeling familiar at times, "Miss Peregrine" effectively gets this message across with just enough imagination, charm, and wonder to stand out.

Read more at Flickreel:

https://www.flickreel.com/miss-peregrines-home-for-peculiar-children-review/

Moana

Part of your waterworld ****1/2

In any other year, "Zootopia" or "Finding Dory" would easily take home the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. The overlooked "Kubo and the Two  Strings"  would also be a worthy spoiler. However, the Oscar race just got even more competitive with the  release of Disney’s "Moana."

Read more at Story Monsters Ink:

http://www.fivestarpublications.net/storymonsters_dir/pdf/smi-january-2017.pdf

Money Monster

Mad money! ***1/2

Jodie Foster’s "Money Monster" works on several different levels. On one hand, the film is an intense thriller and an involving mystery. On the other hand, it’s a dark comedy with sharp commentary on the stock market. The result is something like "The Big Short" meets "Captain Phillips."

Read more at Flickreel:

http://www.flickreel.com/money-monster-review/

Moonlight

In a whole new light ****1/2

“Moonlight” is a stunning cinematic achievement that has a fair deal in common with Richard Linklater's “Boyhood.” Both films are extraordinary coming-of-age stories. “Boyhood” was primarily about capturing the experience of growing up, however, painting a picture that could speak to anybody. “Moonlight,” meanwhile, is arguably a more personal outing, depicting a young man’s search for an identity in a ruthless environment. Barry Jenkins’ film is tragic, gritty, and occasionally flat-out brutal. At the same time, though, it catches you off guard with its moments of sheer hope.


The movie is broken into three acts, following an African American named Chiron throughout childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Newcomer Alex R. Hibbert plays Chiron as a young boy. Bullied by the other kids his age, Chiron is branded with the nickname “Little.” Chiron’s home life isn’t much better, as his dad is absent and his mom is an abusive drug addict. In a Best Supporting Actress caliber performance, Naomie Harris dominates the screen as Chiron’s mother. Creating a cruel and unpredictable character, her portrayal is right up there with Mo'Nique’s Oscar-winning work in “Precious,” although Harris’ character arguably has more humanity.


Chiron finds two parental figures in a drug dealer named Juan (Mahershala Ali) and his girlfriend Teresa (Janelle Monáe). While Juan seems like a threatening individual at first, he becomes the first person to show Chiron love and support. It quickly becomes clear that Juan puts up a tough front, having a heart of gold underneath. With that said, Juan is still forced to do things he’s not proud of in order to survive. Guess who sold those drugs to Chiron’s mother in the first place?


Ashton Sanders plays Chiron as a teenager, leading to the darkest act in “Moonlight.” Chiron is tormented at school, as thugs beat him relentlessly while shouting homophobic slurs. The closest thing Chiron has to a friend is Kevin (Jharrel Jerome). The closer they get, Chiron and Kevin find that their feelings for each other might run deeper than friendship. Like Juan, though, Kevin also needs to preserve his image to get by. This ultimately influences Chiron to make a decision that will forever change the course of his life.


Two-thirds into “Moonlight,” some audience members might wonder why they’re watching such a bleak, difficult film. However, they’ll begin to understand why in the third act where Trevante Rhodes plays an adult Chiron. Without giving too much away, the film’s final destination is a lot different than what audiences will likely expect. Let’s just saw that it brings Chiron’s life full circle in a smart, poignant, and beautiful manner.


Barry Jenkins has delivered a truly profound film about labels, society, and the masks we wear. “Moonlight” also provides an insightful looks at the phenomenon of nature vs. nurture, demonstrating what it means to product of your environment. It accomplishes this with superb acting, a gripping score, and subtle direction. Most importantly, it encourages us to see other people in multiple lights, as the world isn’t always black and white.

Mother's Day

Worst Mother's Day ever **

"Mother’s Day" is the third film from director Gary Marshall about a large ensemble celebrating a popular holiday, the first two being "Valentine’s Day" and "New Year’s Eve." However, it feels more like we’ve seen this movie three million times before.

Read more at Flickreel:

http://www.flickreel.com/mothers-day-review/

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

Every animal house needs a cat fight ***1/2

"Neighbors 2" surprisingly lives up to its predecessor and works as a standalone comedy as well. It’s by no means a comedic masterpiece. For a follow-up that seemingly had nowhere to go but down, however, it delivers a lot more laughs, wit, and maturity than audiences might anticipate.

Read full review at Flickreel:

http://www.flickreel.com/nick-flicks-is-neighbors-2-one-of-the-better-comedy-sequels/

The Nice Guys

Bad cop, worse cop ****1/2

Almost thirty years ago, Shane Black wrote the screenplay for "Lethal Weapon," one of the greatest buddy cop movies ever made. "The Nice Guys," which Black directed and co-wrote with Anthony Bagarozzi, is quite possibly the best buddy cop movie since the original "Lethal Weapon."

Read more at Flickreel:

http://www.flickreel.com/the-nice-guys-review/

Now You See Me 2

Illusion, Michael! ***1/2

"Now You See Me 2" is appropriately like a magic show. It’s ridiculous, preposterous, and shamelessly over-the-top. At the same time, it’s also stylish, imaginative, and simply a lot of fun.

Read more at Flickreel:

http://www.flickreel.com/now-you-see-me-2-review/

Office Christmas Party

A Very Hangover Christmas ***

“Office Christmas Party” has all the ingredients for a classic holiday comedy. The setup invites numerous potentially humorous scenarios and the cast is universally excellent. Alas, the movie never turns into a laugh riot, although there are big laughs spread throughout. For a film that had so many comedic possibilities practically giftwrapped, “Office Christmas Party” is somewhat disappointing. With that said, it’s hard to dismiss the film entirely when certain moments do hit bull’s-eyes. It also helps that “Bad Santa 2” set the bar so low just a couple weeks ago.

 

T. J. Miller plays Clay Vanstone, a rowdy screw-up who manages a branch of his late father’s business. Jennifer Aniston is delightfully pessimistic as Carol, Clay’s older sister and the company CEO. With the demeanor of Ebenezer Scrooge, Carol tells her brother that he needs to lay off 40% of his employees and cancel all Christmas bonuses. On top of that, the whole office is on the verge of being shut down. The only person who might be able to save the branch is a potential client named Walter Davis, played Courtney B. Vance of “The People v. O.J. Simpson.” Along with Jason Bateman’s Josh and Olivia Munn’s Tracey, Clay sets out to put on an epic Christmas party to win Walter over. As you can imagine, things quickly escalate out of hand.

 

The biggest problem with “Office Christmas Party” is that it often treads on familiar territory. We’ve seen countless other raunchy holiday movies like this, such as “The Night Before,” “A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas,” and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” The filmmakers borrow one too many pages from those films without really adding anything very original. On top of that, the film also clearly drew inspiration from “The Hangover,” “Sisters,” and “The Office.” Then again, nobody is going to see this movie expecting anything revolutionary. The target audience is probably just looking for something wacky and festive. On that basis, “Office Christmas Party” is enjoyable enough.

 

While a lot of the punch lines are predictable, the acting ensemble adds a great deal to the equation. Miller, Aniston, Bateman, and Munn all have wonderful chemistry together. Of course the real scene-stealer is Kate McKinnon as Mary, a human resources representative who turns out to have a bit of a wild side. We also get some funny performances from Vanessa Bayer, Rob Corddry, and Randall Park as the office co-workers. Jillian Bell particularly kills it as a pimp who can be nice one second and naughty the next. Unlike some other comedies with large ensembles, everyone is given an appropriate amount of screen time and nobody overstays their welcome.

 

“Office Christmas Party” is about a group of employees coming together to save a dying company. Likewise, the cast comes together here and salvages much of the movie. If you’re in search of something smarter and deeper, you can always check out “La La Land,” “Manchester by the Sea,” or any of the other award season favorites. If you’re in the mood for a lighthearted holiday comedy, though, “Office Christmas Party” fits the bill. Just keep in mind it’s kind of like a Christmas present you’ll play with for one day and then forget about by New Year’s.

Passengers

Star-Lord is kind of an ass **

Even with two of the most likable stars on the planet, "Passengers" is a disappointment. This is a film with all the right tools, featuring astounding special effects, inventive production design, and a gripping setup. It ultimately falls flat due to a couple horrible narrative choices, however.

Read more at Flickreel:

https://www.flickreel.com/passengers-review/

Pete's Dragon

How to Train Your Dragon 3 ****

Where the original film was lighthearted and goofy, this interpretation is poignant, low-key, and not afraid to explore darker themes. At the same time, this version of "Pete’s Dragon" is still cute, charming, and heartwarming, resulting in one of Disney’s most well-rounded remakes to date.

Read more at Story Monsters Ink:

http://www.fivestarpublications.net/storymonsters_dir/pdf/smi-october-2016.pdf

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

More fun than a box of dicks ***1/2

"Popstar" is Lonely Island’s answer to "This is Spinal Tap."

Read more at Flickreel:

http://www.flickreel.com/popstar-never-stop-never-stopping-review/

Race

Get it? The title is a double entendre! ****


The film may not change the way we look at sports movies or the concept of prejudice. Much like the Olympic torch, however, "Race" is guaranteed to inspire.


Read more at Flickreel: 


http://www.flickreel.com/race-review/

Ratchet & Clank

I'll rip you a new one ***

"Ratchet & Clank" by no means breaks new ground for animation. However, it could be seen as a minor stepping-stone for video game movies.

Read more at Flickreel:

http://www.flickreel.com/nick-picks-could-ratchet-clank-be-a-stepping-stone-for-video-game-movies/

Ride Along 2

They seriously made another one? *


As expected, this utterly pointless sequel is every bit as predictable as its predecessor. The only difference is that now the clichés are twice as painful to sit through.


Read more at Flickreel: 


http://www.flickreel.com/ride-along-2-review/

Risen

Has he risen? ***1/2

If you’re not a particularly religious person or are totally against the notion of religion, "Risen" isn’t likely to convert you. For those with a spiritual side, though, it just might reaffirm your faith in bible movies.

Read more at Flickreel:

http://www.flickreel.com/risen-review/

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

A Star Wars side story ****

Although it’s not as grand or emotional as last year’s “The Force Awakens,” “Rogue One” is one of the most unique films set in a galaxy far, far away. Playing out like “Seven Samurai” in space, the film stands out thanks to an immensely likable cast, intense battle sequences, and an emphasis on the sacrifices that come with war. While more bittersweet than triumphant, “Rogue One” reminds us that there’s always hope even during the darkest of times.

Read more at Story Monsters Ink:

http://www.fivestarpublications.net/storymonsters_dir/pdf/smi-february-2017.pdf

Rules Don't Apply

Me, you, and Howard Hughes ***1/2

While not without its drawbacks, "Rules Don’t Apply" is still thoroughly entertaining with a sensational central performance from Beatty.

Read more at Flickreel:

https://www.flickreel.com/rules-dont-apply-review/

Sausage Party

Eating out ***1/2

A couple years ago, Columbia Pictures distributed "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2," an animated feature about sentient food creatures. Now Columbia brings us "Sausage Party," which is kind of like the latter film on bath salts.

Read more at Flickreel:

https://www.flickreel.com/sausage-party-review/

The Secret Life of Pets

Mass hysteria! Dogs and cats living together! ***1/2

For the most part,  Illumination executes this clever premise with plenty  of laughs and charm, even if the film doesn’t break  new ground for animation.

Read more at Story Monsters Ink:

http://www.fivestarpublications.net/storymonsters_dir/pdf/smi-august-2016.pdf

Silence

Silence is golden ****1/2

On a technical level, "Silence" is one of the most polished projects Scorsese has ever taken on.

Read more at Flickreel:

https://www.flickreel.com/silence-review/

Sing

Animal Idol ***1/2

The film knows that it’s fluff, although that doesn’t stop the animators from pouring a ton of heart, wit, and effort into the product. The result is an infectiously fun family picture that plays out like "Pitch Perfect" meets "Zootopia."

Read more at Flickreel:

https://www.flickreel.com/sing-review/

Sing Street

Hey kids, let's start a band! ****


Although John Carney’s films aren’t strictly musicals, music always plays an essential role in his work. The Irish filmmaker is truly a master when it comes to expressing a character’s emotions through song. Between Once and Begin Again, he’s given us some of finest modern movies about making music. "Sing Street" is no exception.


Read more at Flickreel: 


http://www.flickreel.com/sing-street-review/

Snowden

Do you want to build a Snowden? ***

"Snowden" never really stands out as a great movie. With that said, this is still solid entertainment. Just don’t go in expecting the next "Born on the Fourth of July," "JFK," or "Nixon." It’s much closer to being the next "World Trade Center" or "W." At least that’s better than being the next "Alexander," though.

Read more at Flickreel:

https://www.flickreel.com/snowden-review/

Star Trek Beyond

"Star Trek" + "Fast & Furious" director = match made in heaven? ****

This third installment of the rebooted "Star Trek" franchise is perhaps the most action-packed entry, which might upset the purists. If you’re a mainstream moviegoer looking for a fun time, though, "Star Trek Beyond" delivers the goods and then some.

Read more at Nerd Repository:

http://nerdrepository.com/movie-review-star-trek-beyond/

Suicide Squad

A second life or DOA? ***1/2

"Suicide Squad" pretty much gives audiences what they’ve been wanting from the DCEU: humor, colors, clever banter, and even a heart. With that said, the movie isn’t without some of the same problems we’ve come to expect from this franchise: jumbled pacing and one too many characters.

Read more at Flickreel:

https://www.flickreel.com/suicide-squad-review/

Sully

No relation to the "Uncharted" character ****

"Sully" isn’t necessarily a deep, complex character study, but it is a passionate, expertly made tribute to an everyday hero.

Read more at Flickreel: https://www.flickreel.com/sully-review/

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

Laura Linney and the Ninja Turtles don't exactly go hand in hand **1/2

"Out of the Shadows" treats its audience like kids, offers nothing new, and ultimately lacks a heart.

Read more at Flickreel:

http://www.flickreel.com/nick-flicks-what-out-of-the-shadows-couldve-learned-from-the-ninja-turtles-cartoon/

Warcraft

Worst video game movie ever? *


"Warcraft" makes "Ratchet & Clank" and "The Angry Birds Movie" look like masterpieces by comparison. Is this the worst video game movie ever, though?


Read more at Flickreel: 


http://www.flickreel.com/nick-flicks-is-warcraft-the-worst-video-game-movie-ever/

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

WTF? **1/2

Somewhere in "Whisky Tango Foxtrot," there’s a really clever, insightful comedy trying to get out about journalists in the Middle East. While the film isn’t without its memorable moments, the end product isn’t entirely successful.

Read more at Flickreel:

http://www.flickreel.com/whiskey-tango-foxtrot-review/

Why Him?

Why not? ***

"Why Him?" is another comedy from Hamburg that often veers towards the middle of the road. However, the film does have a few saving graces, particularly its two stars. They breathe life into an otherwise routine comedy that delivers exactly what’d you expect.

Read more at Flickreel:

https://www.flickreel.com/why-him-review/

Zoolander 2

Really, really ridiculously adequate ***

"Zoolander" was only a modest box office success back in 2001, but after finding a cult following on DVD it quickly became one of the most quotable comedies of the early 21st century. "Zoolander 2" is a sequel that people probably aren’t going to be referencing fifteen years from now. Even if it’s not "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues" or "22 Jump Street," the film is still likely to amuse anyone who enjoyed the original. At least that’s more than can be said about some sequels that didn’t even try, such as "The Hangover Part II," or other sequels that have no business existing in the first place, like "Ride Along 2."

Ben Stiller returns as Derek Zoolander, the really, really, ridiculously good looking male model of very little brain. As for what Derek’s been up to over the past decade and a half, that’s a long, pretty humorous story. Let’s just say that a series of events leaves our hero living a life in solitude. After Justin Bieber and several other beautiful celebrities are murdered, Derek comes out of retirement to help solve the mystery. Along the way, he teams up with Penélope Cruz’s Melanie Valentina, a sexy Interpol agent, and Owen Wilson’s Hansel, who’s struggling to remain loyal to only one orgy.


The cast also includes an unrecognizable Kristen Wiig, an even more unrecognizable Benedict Cumberbatch, and so many celebrity cameos that it’s hard to catch them all. One character who could’ve used more screen time is Will Ferrell’s villainous fashion designer Mugatu, who doesn’t even show up until the about a good third into the movie. Fortunately, there’s plenty of Derek and Hansel to go around. Once again, Stiller and Wilson share a wonderful chemistry with each other as two immensely funny characters. It’s just great to see these guys together again, even if "Zoolander 2" can feel like a compilation of the last film’s best moments.


As with many long-awaited follow-ups to popular comedies, the best bits here are all throwbacks. "Zoolander 2" doesn’t just repeat all the same gags without adding anything new, however. Stiller puts a particularly hilarious spin on his iconic Magnum look in a fun climax. The problem with this sequel is that it doesn’t build up a ton of classic jokes from the ground up. If you’ve never seen the original "Zoolander," chances are you won’t laugh at all.


adequateridiculouslyThen again, why would you even be in the theater if you weren’t a fan of the original? That’s obviously the target audience here. Stiller directs this outing with an abundance of kinetic energy, going much bigger than before. Granted, bigger doesn’t necessarily equal better and most fans will agree that "Zoolander 2" isn’t the laugh riot its predecessor was. Thanks to a few colorful set pieces, some noteworthy supporting roles, and of course our leading men, though, there are just enough idiotically hysterical bits to make the film worthwhile. Just don’t expect anything on par with the merman, gasoline fight accident, or center for ants.

Zootopia

Trump supporters, please see this movie! ****1/2


In addition to being one of the funniest films Disney has ever produced, "Zootopia" provides a thought-provoking moral regarding acceptance that parallels real world issues. It’s amazing just how wise, relevant, and even important this cute little movie truly is.


Read more in the April issue of Story Monsters Ink:


http://www.fivestarpublications.net/storymonsters_dir/pdf/smi-april-2016.pdf