Review: Keeping Up with the Joneses

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Keeping Up with the Joneses.

There are two things immediately wrong with this movie. 1.) The title is horrendous because the word “Joneses” is super weird. 2.) Zach Galifianakis released a movie just about a month ago called Masterminds that was super disappointing so he really needs a win here.

The gist.

We meet Jeff (Galifianakis) and his wife Karen (Isla Fisher). Jeff is in Human Resources at an engineering firm that is working on some high level stuff. A new couple moves into their neighborhood (Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot) and it becomes apparent immediately that they’re not who they say they are. The movie turns into a “who is the mole?” mystery. We also have Matt Walsh, Maribeth Monroe (Workaholics), and a few other little surprise guests.


What works?

This movie is much better than Masterminds but that’s not really saying much. In Masterminds, I felt like the movie was aggressively bad. Here, the movie is fine. Galifianakis isn’t ridiculous, he’s just kind of a normal guy that says a few weird things. He’s toned way down, which works to this movie’s benefit. It’s also nice to see Isla Fisher back in comedy, especially after her show-stealing performance in Wedding Crashers. These two work together well but they’re overshadowed by Hamm and Gadot.

Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot are great here, managing to convincingly pull off being badasses but also providing some of the movie’s funniest moments. This is the largest role I’ve seen Gadot play and it’s not always great, but it’s mostly great, and that has to count for something.

Lastly, there’s a villain in the movie that I won’t spoil for you, but the climax is simultaneously the funniest and also most action-packed part of the movie. Unfortunately the rest of the movie doesn’t hold up so well.

What doesn’t work?

This movie isn’t bad. However I didn’t care about hardly any of it. I found myself staring at the screen in complete apathy. Huge action scene, no reaction. A series of jokes, no reaction. The movie is just bland and somewhat boring. There are some scenes, maybe a handful, that surprised me and showed how much potential this movie had, but most of the movie is just downright boring.

The amount of things that actually happen in this movie is slim. It’s a simple movie, full of fluff and pointless scenes that were likely included to boost the runtime. It could’ve been a 30-minute short and maybe even better because of it.

And while Galifianakis reeled it in for this movie, there are occasional scenes where he goes from 0 to 100 and it’s a bit cringeworthy, unless you’re a huge fan of Galifianakis when he’s at 100.



This movie is a coin toss for me. If there is literally nothing else you want to watch, it’ll be fine. It’s got some humor, some decent performances by Gadot and Hamm, and a surprisingly fun climax. However the journey to get to the climax is boring and dull, full of fluff that doesn’t matter and a fair amount of jokes that don’t land. This movie won’t be one that you remember in a few days, so I’d recommend waiting til you can rent it and save yourself the money.

Rating 3 star


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Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

I haven’t read the book and I realize this movie has been out for almost a month now, meaning very few of you probably care about my thoughts on this.

The gist.

Without spoiling too much, we follow Jake (Asa Butterfield) as he goes off to find a mysterious island in Wales, where his grandfather (Terence Stamp) supposedly grew up. Jake is introduced to the headmistress of this boarding home, Miss Peregrine (Eva Green), who is able to control time. Turns out she has been protecting these young kids who are known as “peculiar,” which is like being a mutant, because they all have extraordinary powers. One girl floats, one lights things on fire, and one young boy is completely invisible. It’s basically like a British X-Men, full of oddities. Someone is looking for them though (a nefarious Samuel L. Jackson) and now Jake is caught up in their plight and must help them defend their home.

We also have Judi Dench, Rupert Everett, Chris O’Dowd, Ella Purnell, and more.


What works?

This is a fun movie, especially if you want a lightened-up superhero movie. It’s fun, it’s colorful, and the world created here is interesting. The mythology they’ve set up here is undoubtedly fleshed out in the book series, but I kept wanting to know more, and they did a great job of giving you enough to be interested but not explaining too much.

The effects are pretty good, not spectacular, but it’s stylized in a way that makes sense. Once you see the villains, they don’t look real but I still bought into their aesthetics.

What doesn’t work?

I love Asa Butterfield usually but here, he was undoubtedly the most uninteresting person in the cast. When you have a cast of extraordinary kids with powers, your average normal teenager doesn’t really intrigue you. And yes, they make him essential to the plot but that doesn’t make him any more interesting. He’s just asking questions the entire time.

The other “lead” was Eva Green and she wasn’t especially interesting either. It felt like they tried to make her a little off-the-wall and quirky but it didn’t really succeed. I’ve never been in a huge fan of her’s, so maybe I’m biased.


This is brief because again… you probably don’t care too much. In summary though, this movie is fine. It is the definition of average. It’s an interesting world, bogged down by some uninteresting lead characters. I’d be interested in a sequel, if they maybe focused on some other characters in this world. Bland performances, decent computer effects, but fun enough, especially if you have kids or teens that might be into a watered down superhero adventure.

3 star

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Review: The Accountant

accountant-headeradam reviewThe Accountant.

Ben Affleck has somehow managed to turn his career back around, after a stint of time in which it was pretty laughable. I think Argo might’ve been the turning point, when he reestablished that he’s a heavy hitter. His performance in Batman v Superman was one of that movie’s only positive traits so I was curious what he could do in a movie like this.

The gist.

Affleck stars as a man named Christian Wolff but we soon discover that’s an alias. See, Wolff is an accountant, who works for dangerous people all over the world. He finds missing money and usually pinpoints who took it (or kills them). He also happens to be on the autism spectrum, so the movie spends time in both the present and the past, showing how a young kid could be turned into a dangerous killer (and mathematical genius). In the current day, he takes a job to investigate a company (ran by John Lithgow) and find out where the money has gone. He’s assisted by their one of their own accountants, played by Anna Kendrick. Soon though, we see that someone is on his trail, an assassin played by Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead, Daredevil). We also have a side story about the government trying to track down and discover Wolff’s real identity, with J.K. Simmons playing an “about to retire” official who blackmails a younger agent (Cynthia Addai-Robinson from Arrow) into taking on this case.


What works?

This movie has a surprisingly low 50% as of this writing on Rotten Tomatoes. What movie did they watch?

Ben Affleck delivers an incredible performance here, playing his character with a perfect blend of badass and genius, with quite a bit of humor. It’s believable that he’s somewhere on the spectrum, with several moments that gave me chills. The child actor that played his character also did a superb job. It felt like an affirmative movie that folks on the spectrum can be high functioning and successful, though there may be challenges. This movie didn’t feel like it was pandering or like Oscar-bait, but I’m outside that community so I’m curious to see what other people say about Affleck’s portrayal.

The movie itself isn’t really what you’d expect. There are only maybe 3 action sequences and they all take place in the second half of the movie. So for some folks, that means the first half will be a bit slow. I found the first half to be great though, making us comfortable with these characters and giving us backstory, before the action kicked in. There’s actually an interesting mystery here, about the missing money. Usually action films have big setpiece sequences and then come up with a flimsy story to give it context. “Welp, guess we need to go to Abu Dhabi now!” Here though, the mystery is the focal point and the action sequences felt driven by the characters and seem to occur naturally.

Aside from Affleck, the other talent here is exceptional. Most notably, I thought it was great to see John Lithgow back. Also Jon Bernthal delivered a badass performance that turned into likely one of the best performances of his career, right under Daredevil for me. The climax of the movie, where everything collides, is some of the most visceral action I’ve seen this year and simultaneously emotionally exhausting.

Let’s talk about the action. Even though there are only a few action sequences, they’re all absolutely bonkers. If you enjoyed John Wick, this will feel reminiscent. It’s fast, mixing gunplay with martial arts and tons of improvised weapons. Edge of your seat action, proving quality is better than quantity.


What doesn’t work?

While I was totally onboard for Affleck’s story, the movie for some reason had a sideplot of the government trying to figure out his identity. This mostly acted as exposition, so we (the audience) could learn who he was and all the badass stuff he’s done. This story felt forced, including the weird notion that a government authority in J.K. Simmons would essentially blackmail this poor girl (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) into doing this assignment. Her performance was also the weakest in the movie. And while Simmons is fine I guess, his character didn’t really contribute much. Overall this story could’ve been cut completely. It’s better to show than tell.


If this movie would’ve trimmed the exposition-heavy plotline involving the government, this movie would’ve been a perfect 5. Instead, we constantly leave the compelling and interesting story of Affleck’s complicated character to resort to a plotline we don’t care about. When the movie is good though, it’s great. Affleck, Lithgow, Kendrick, and Bernthal all deliver some of their career-best performances, culminating in an intense finale that left me breathless. The action is rare but the quality of those sequences is astonishing. You may find the first half a bit slow, but this movie is overall incredibly solid.

4 star

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Review: Queen of Katwe

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Queen of Katwe.

This is one of those movies that you get kind of choked up just by watching the trailers, so I went in expecting some tears and some inspirational moments. But did it actually deliver a solid film?

The gist.

We follow a young girl in Uganda named Phiona (newcomer Madina Nalwanga) as she struggles to help her family make ends meet. Her mother (Lupita Nyong’o) wants her to work selling maize in the city but Phiona soon meets a teacher of sorts who introduces her to chess (David Oyelowo). They discover that Phiona has a natural gift for strategy and she begins a quest to become a chess master, which is sometimes at odds with what is best for her family. We also have her little brother (Martin Kabanza), her older sister (Taryn Kyaze), and fellow student Benjamin (Ethan Nazario Lubega) that all have prominent roles.


What works?

The talent involved in this picture is incredible. Madina Nalwanga in the lead role is great, sharing many similarities with Phiona. Her charm and likeability makes this an easy movie to enjoy. However, it’s really her co-stars Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) and David Oyelowo (Selma) that carry this film. Oyelowo moves the plot forward, as Phiona’s teacher and mentor, but the core emotion of the film is reliant on Nyong’o, who delivers an exceptional performance.

The movie itself is a perfect example of this genre. I cried a fair bit, usually from happiness, but the movie never overindulges. It’s not like some other recent movies that go so far to make you feel emotion, that it feels forced and fake. This movie’s whole purpose isn’t to make you cry, it’s just the byproduct of telling a great story.

I’m very uninformed about what life is actually like in Uganda, but I felt like this movie absolutely transported me there. The colors jumped off the screen, the crowded streets felt claustrophobic… It felt completely immersive, showcasing both the best and worst that this city has to offer.


What didn’t work?

This movie clocks in at just over 2 hours and it did drag in quite a few places. There are many moments that repeat over and over (such as a reoccurring theme of not believing in yourself) that feel a little repetitive after a few times.

There’s also one substantial chunk in the later portions that felt a bit out of place. It was a super interesting section but it also made our lead heroine unlikeable for a portion, as she tasted success and found dissatisfaction in her home and family. I don’t know if the larger question of what success does to someone was vitally important to this story.


I was very happy with Queen of Katwe and it’s unfortunate that no one is talking about this. There are some stellar performances and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nyong’o at least get a nomination for her performance here. If you want something that’s the just the right sort of inspirational, this one will do it. Sure, it could’ve benefited from a few cuts, but it’s overall a great pick.

4 star

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Review: The Girl on the Train

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The Girl on the Train.

This movie is going to remind everyone of Gone Girl. And that’s unfortunate because Gone Girl is an incredible and thrilling movie. This one? Not so much.

The gist.

Emily Blunt stars as a woman named Rachel, who is a divorcee and alcoholic, struggling to keep it together. She rides the train every day into New York City and passes by her old home, where her ex-husband (Justin Theroux) lives with his new love Anna (Rebecca Ferguson). She also happens to pass by the house of two passionate lovers (Haley Bennett and Luke Evans) and gets to know them well, though never meeting them. One morning, she sees the woman with a new man and she then goes missing that night. What ensues is a murder mystery trying to piece together Blunt’s drunken memories.

We also have Edgar Ramirez as a psychiatrist, Laura Prepon as Blunt’s roommate of sorts, Allison Janney as a detective, and Lisa Kudrow in a role that really will only make sense in context.


What works?

Very little.

Though I can’t say who, the person who ends up becoming the villain/antagonist of the movie delivers a terrifying performance in the film’s climax, but that sort of energy and thrill is absent from the rest of the film.

What doesn’t work?

This movie wants to be Gone Girl desperately but it fails to live up to every expectation in that regard. The story is convoluted and messy, including characters whose only purpose is to act as a red herring and make you think they might be the killer. Even notable actors and actresses are misused in irrelevant roles.

In terms of editing and tone, this movie tries to also illicit thrill but it seems sillier than it should be. I caught myself laughing as a drunk Emily Blunt staggered through each scene. She’s an incredible actress but it didn’t work here and no one told her to reel it in a bit. There are also jarring edits everywhere and flashes and jumps that try to make you feel suspense but it feels very amateur.

It’s a shame though because the cast is great. Rebecca Ferguson stole the show in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and Haley Bennett delivered a much better performance in Magnificent 7. Here though, it all falls flat. It’s even boring at parts, making the movie drag when it should flow.



I’m sure The Girl on the Train is a great book. As a movie though, it doesn’t work. The talent is great but their performances are nothing special. Blunt even delivers some moments that are laughable, not the Oscar-worthy performance she likely had in mind. The suspense is forced, the plot overly convoluted, and the technical aspects messy and amateur. I’m even hesitant to say it’s entertaining, as I found myself bored and predicted the climax way before it was actually revealed.

Rating 2 star

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Review: Luke Cage (Season One)


Luke Cage (Season One).

By now, you’re kind of missing the boat if you’re not watching Marvel’s incredible straight-to-Netflix television shows. Both Daredevil and Jessica Jones have been great, running parallel to the big Marvel movies like The Avengers. So you’ll hear them talk about Iron Man and Captain America on these shows, just don’t hold your breath for any cameos.

Luke Cage is the third series to come out and unfortunately by now, it’s a requirement basically to watch the other shows first. The plotlines weave in and out, so if you jump into Luke Cage first, you’ll likely be confused (probably most by the appearance of Rosario Dawson’s character).

But you’re wondering… is it good?

The gist.

In Jessica Jones, we were first introduced to Luke Cage (Mike Colter). Luke has unbreakable skin and incredible strength, though his origin isn’t covered. So now that he has his own show, we get to dive into that stuff. Our villains for the series are two cousins. One is a crime boss named “Cottonmouth,” who is willing to kill and steal to rise to the top (Mahershala Ali). His cousin is a local politician with hidden agendas and who tries not to get her hands dirty, a woman named Mariah (Alfre Woodard). These two make life difficult for Luke as they try to put pressure on small local businesses and someone Luke cares about gets caught in the crossfire.

Luke does gain some allies, most notably a police officer named Misty Knight (Simone Missick) and a familiar face of the nurse Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson). We also have some other characters, including Sons of Anarchy‘s Theo Rossi.


What works?

This is another stellar addition to the lineup.

We got to see Mike Colter in action before, but this is his story now and he totally carries it. Luckily though, his supporting cast is incredible. Simone Missick plays Misty Knight, a fan favorite, but she knocks it out of the park (and she’s in much more of the show than I expected).

The action is also pretty great, considering our hero is bulletproof. There isn’t the same sort of martial arts action that Daredevil gave us, so it’s a little simpler, but he does throw people around plenty. It’s a good balance of what worked in Daredevil and then in Jessica Jones.

Another unexpected star of the show is the use of music, not only as a soundtrack but as a theme. Live music is playing in every club scene. People use music metaphors and allegories, even down to a giant Biggie poster than our villain Cottonmouth idolizes. The music is perfect and helps to make a tonal shift from the other Marvel series.

I was also pleasantly surprised with how bold this show was, in terms of tackling actual real issues. You’ll undoubtedly see plenty of headlines about how it’s great to see a black man in a hoodie who is bulletproof. It is great. There are a lot of nuances here, involving Cage and the police and his community and even the struggles of Misty Knight, who has to walk in both worlds. They tackle things like language and bias and privilege… but all in ways that make absolute sense in this semi-fictional world. He’s bulletproof yes, but he’s still going through situations that are unfortunately all too common for folks here in the real world as well.


What doesn’t work?

Unfortunately our villains here aren’t quite the standouts that Daredevil and Jessica Jones gave us. Both Tahershala Ali and Alfre Woodard (both above) gave decent performances but their characters didn’t have quite the… heart?… that the previous villains had. They weren’t quite as complicated. Alfre stole the show in a few scenes, but would eventually slink back to being kind of an archetype slimy politician. There’s a third villain not really promoted, so I won’t spoil it, but he’s even less utilized and less fleshed out.

The only other complaint is sometimes the show is too obvious with how it’s tackling social issues. I get it though. For me, I like to think I’m educated and aware and I recognized the themes a mile away, so I knew what they were doing. So by the third reference to black men in hoodies being bulletproof, I thought it was a bit too on the nose. Buuuuuuut I think those references were likely for less educated or more ignorant audiences that didn’t see what was happening under the surface. So I get it.


They did it again. In 13 episodes, they managed to create a great arc for our hero, having him face off against all sorts of threats, some he could punch and others he couldn’t. There were a lot of great performances here, though the villains seemed a little more one-dimensional than classics like Wilson Fisk or Kilgrave. In the ranking, I think I still prefer Daredevil overall but this and Jessica Jones are close seconds.

Rating 4 star

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Review: Masterminds

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Let me begin by saying I had absolutely zero expectations for this movie, as the trailers looked underwhelming. Let’s see if it managed to surprise me!

The gist.

Who wouldn’t want to rob a bank? Well, in this movie we have three characters that have that goal in mind. Steve (Owen Wilson) convinces Kelly (Kristen Wiig) to flirt with David (Zach Galifianakis), who happens to drive armored cars full of cash for a living. So the three of them attempt to pull off one of the largest heists in U.S. history, in this “based on a true story” adventure. Jason Sudeikis, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon, and Mary Elizabeth Ellis also star.

What works?

Not much.

This movie reminded me of movies like Grandma’s Boy or Hot Rod. Or maybe even earlier movies like Napoleon Dynamite (whose director Jared Hess also directed this film). Those movies are very divisive. Some people will love them and laugh nonstop, while others perceive them as completely idiotic. I didn’t laugh much during Masterminds but there were plenty of people who did, so I feel like my (spoiler alert) low rating may not align with some of your opinions.

While the characters are ridiculous, you can’t say that the actors weren’t trying. Everyone here is putting in 110% but that doesn’t always equate to success. But they’re committed and trying to save this film. The one that stood out to me as being the most legitimately funny in the bunch was Jason Sudeikis, who managed to steal every scene he was in.


What doesn’t work?

Like I said, this movie is stupid. Like… “make your head hurt” stupid. From start to finish, it’s lazy and easy jokes, usually resorting to profanity, racism, or sexism. Those of you that might be offended (or even just un-entertained) by these types of jokes should give this one a pass.

A movie like this works when one character is ridiculous but everyone else grounds it in reality. Here, they’re all absolutely crazy and it gets annoying real fast, most notably Zach Galifianakis who has been churning out the same performance ever since The Hangover. It was sometimes unbearable to watch. Even more unbearable though was Kate McKinnon, who turned her strange knob up to 11 on this one and gave us the weirdest and most uncomfortable performance of her career so far.

The movie also, while “based on a true story,” doesn’t make much logical sense. Every scenario we see is so absurd that it’s completely unbelievable, so when you see pictures during the credits of the real characters, your brain explodes from cognitive dissonance. This story and these scenarios must be so stretched and changed that they likely hardly look anything like the real story that unfolded.



This movie is stupid and lazy and nonsensical, but some of you will still have a blast with it, if you can cope with those things. The performances are absolutely ridiculous, but the talent is at least trying. I wouldn’t recommend this movie, unless you have a fondness for the stupid and ridiculous and you expect that going in.

Rating 2 star

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