Review: I Feel Pretty

I Feel Pretty.

Amy Schumer is divisive, let’s start with that. She’s crude and she’s alienated a lot of people with some of her comedy and off-handed remarks. If you dislike her, this movie won’t do anything to change your mind, but if you’re a fan of Schumer and her past works like Trainwreck, will this movie be up your alley?

The gist.

Schumer stars as a woman named Renee who works on the social media for a huge makeup company but is stranded in the basement and yearns to be a bigger part of the company. After a head injury, she suddenly believes she is incredibly attractive and this gives her all the confidence in the world, even though in reality nothing has changed. She gets highly involved in the upper workings of this makeup company and becomes close with the CEO (Michelle Williams) and her charming brother (Tom Hopper). She also begins seeing a man (Rory Scovel) who is head over heels for the real her, even though she doesn’t realize this. We also have her two best friends played by Aidy Bryant (Saturday Night Live) and Busy Philipps. Rounding out the cast we have Adrian Martinez and Emily Ratajkowski.

What works?

This movie surprised me in a lot of ways. I wasn’t really sold on the trailers at all and even though I loved Trainwreck (it was in my top 10 that year), I wasn’t really interested in this. However, I’m super glad I went because I had a great time.

As a comedy, this movie succeeds across the board. On the written page, these jokes are clever and subtle and sharp and it all works. There’s some more obvious humor but it’s an excellent blend to fit all sorts of comedic styles. Schumer delivers a great performance here, regardless of how you feel about her, and her supporting cast is excellent as well. Michelle Williams (yes, 4-time Academy Award nominee) kills it here in a performance that is completely different than anything she’s done. After her serious turns in Manchester by the Sea and All the Money in the World, this is a welcome change and something that proves she’s incredibly versatile.

I was also surprised by how affected I was by the plot. It’s predictable yes, but it’s still incredibly charming and powerful. It’s an inspirational movie about what we could achieve if we really believed in ourselves, but also about the dangers of vanity. It’s perfect for today’s world and you should be able to take a lot from it.

Another standout is the romantic lead of the film Rory Scovel, who I’ve never really seen anywhere. He’s subtle and normal, compared to the outlandish cast that he’s surrounded by. This movie managed to not only create interesting and complicated female characters but also well-rounded romantic male characters that subvert some expectations as well.

What doesn’t work?

This movie is predictable from the get-go, so you’re never quite surprised by where it goes. There’s a few fun twists and turns, but ultimately it’s a refreshing inspirational comedy, so it only has a few options in the end. I didn’t mind the predictability because the journey was such a fun one.

And if you’re not a fan of Amy Schumer’s work, this clearly isn’t up your alley. For everyone else though, this is a surefire pick.

Overall…

I Feel Pretty was a pleasant surprise. I had zero interest but it’ll likely end up in my favorite comedies of the year. It’s a heartfelt story full of great performances and some top notch comedy, held up by Amy Schumer, Michelle Williams, and Rory Scovel. If you want some solid laughs, this is a good pick and might surprise you too.

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Review: Rampage

Rampage.

I bet most of you didn’t know that this movie is based on a video game, an old arcade game where you controlled monsters who destroyed a city and ate innocent civilians. This movie shares that same basic premise but otherwise deviates significantly.

The gist.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stars as a primatologist, an expert on primates, and he’s working closely with an albino ape named George. A strange canister crashes into George’s enclosure and infects him with a virus that causes him to go feral and increase drastically in size and strength. Two other canisters infect a wolf in Wyoming and an alligator in Florida.

Now Johnson has to find a way to cure his friend and stop these animals from terrorizing the United States. He’s helped by Naomie Harris who stars as one of the geneticists who created this virus. Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Walking Dead, Watchmen) also appears as a mysterious government agent.

As antagonists, we have Malin Ackerman (also Watchmen) and Jake Lacy (The Office) who head up the genetic editing corporation and seem to have no regard for human life.

What works?

Rampage is exactly what you think it will be. The Rock is just as charming as ever, he leaps from exploding helicopters, and there are giant monsters. This is no surprise, as this is his third teamup with director Brad Peyton (also including San Andreas and Journey 2: The Mysterious Island). This movie is basically San Andreas but they just added monsters in post-production. And for many of you, that’s exactly what you want.

Let’s talk about the monsters. George, the albino ape that we spend the most time with, looks fantastic and elicits some very real emotions from the audience, as we start to care about him. The other two monsters don’t fare as well, getting less attention for their visuals (the wolf looks especially bad) and becoming more monstrous, like the Kaiju from Pacific Rim. This is “cool” but doesn’t really make sense when you keep seeing George whose only mutation is becoming slightly bigger. Still, George is a highlight for this movie.

What doesn’t work?

Like I said, the visuals are inconsistent. There’s some incredibly obvious green screens, some really bad monster effects, and the “city destruction” moments feel incredibly familiar (again, like some scenes from San Andreas were copied and pasted).

There’s also a problem with the human characters in this movie. There are surprisingly a lot of characters that we don’t need to care about and it’s painfully obvious. Throughout the movie we continually meet new characters but those characters spend very brief moments with us. Even late in the movie, we’re meeting new characters, while characters from the first part of the film disappear. It’s just a lot.

And some of these characters are very bad. Malin Ackerman and Jake Lacy star as two greedy corporate hacks who are trying to salvage what they can from this genetic experiment but somehow insist on trying to destroy the city of Chicago? I still don’t quite know why and they make some really stupid decisions (like staying in Chicago). Their performances are also ridiculous, amped up to 150% and they come off as cartoons, they’re so diabolically evil. Painful to watch at times.

We also have some humor issues here. A lot of the jokes fail. Many of them revolve around George the ape using sign language to say something nasty or sexual or crude. He gives the finger a lot. It seems like low-hanging fruit and barely caused a chuckle in our theater, aside from the kids that should not have been in this theater.

Here’s the biggest downside to this film: the pacing. It’s a long journey til we get any sort of action that resembles what the trailers have shown us. There’s a few little moments when the ape or the wolf attack something briefly, but it’s a slow burn. People see these movies for massive monsters and citywide destruction, yet this movie is bogged down with way too many tertiary characters and an over-complicated plot that delays the actual “rampage” that we’ve been waiting for.

Overall…

Rampage is a mixed bag. The Rock is likeable as always and his buddy George is given a lot of attention as well. Everyone else fares less well, with a bloated cast of characters and too much time spent on an overly complicated plot. When the monsters do get to fight, it’s also mixed, with some bad visual effects and bland city destruction that we’ve become numb to. It’s a fun ride, if you really just want some action, but even then you may find your patience tested in the long road to get to the good stuff.

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Review: A Quiet Place

A Quiet Place.

If you’ve noticed, I don’t really review horror movies. The last one I saw was The Visit and I’m still terrified of old people. A Quiet Place looks interesting though and I was curious about what John Krasinski could deliver (as he both starred in and directed this film).

The gist.

Our movie opens and it’s been 89 days since some sort of monsters started terrorizing the world. These monsters are blind but they have impeccable hearing, so even the slightest noise is instant death. We follow one family, though it’s clear there are other survivors out there. We have John Krasinski and Emily Blunt as the parents, and a son and a daughter played by Noah Jupe (Wonder) and Millicent Simmonds. The daughter, Simmonds, is deaf in the movie and deaf in real life. Together, they try to survive by making zero noise because their lives depend on it. To make matters worse, the mother is about to give birth, a scenario not typically known for being a quiet one.

What works?

I was worried this was going to be a real horror movie but it’s really not. This may upset some of you, but this is really just a suspense movie. There’s no real gore (it’s rated PG-13) and the jump scares are usually seen a mile away. But as a suspense film, it knocks it out of the park. From the first moment to the last, you’re on the edge of your seat. And the movie is almost entirely silent, aside from the occasional light music or during action sequences. This means you probably shouldn’t buy snacks or popcorn. There was the noisiest eater behind me that I wanted to punch. Even the smallest sounds become amplified in a theater of dead silence.

I was also intrigued by this world and the movie does a decent job of showing us instead of telling us. We see inventions and methods to survive in silence, without making a big deal of explaining those things. This is contrasted with a few overdone exposition moments including a white board that is really only intended for us. Some moments work, some don’t.

The cast is great, which is a relief. One weak link would’ve crashed this entire film. They managed to find two stellar children actors here and they each get moments to shine. Both Blunt and Krasinski carry the movie, though they don’t get to show much range. Unfortunately the only real emotion on display is “terrified.”

What doesn’t work?

This gimmick works as an idea. Monsters that kill based on sound. However, when that idea is implemented as a feature film, it becomes a bit of a slow burn. The second half of the film is fast and intense, though the first half is much slower. The characters communicate with sign language, so even dialogue is still near-silent. A few folks were dozing off in the theater or checking their phones.

I also mentioned there isn’t any gore. This normally isn’t a problem, but it also means that any character death is underwhelming because we never really get a death scene or anything, it all happens in a flash. There’s one death especially that could’ve benefited from some more time to really feel the impact.

And like I referenced in the what works section… The actors don’t get to show any range, though they excel at being terrified. The pacing is a little slow in the beginning. And one noisy person in the theater can ruin this entire experience, which is something out of your control.

Lastly, we have some huge plot issues, which I can’t really go into specifics on. Things happen which are unexplained, characters do things on a whim that somehow don’t feel earned, and ultimately there’s few big jumps in logic that don’t quite work.

Overall…

A Quiet Place is a unique story and a film that does something new. The cast is great, the world they’ve built is interesting, and the tension runs through the entire film. However, it’s a slow burn to get to the action, the actors only get one emotion to play with, and the few “big” moments are a bit underwhelming. Ultimately, this is a fun experiment, but is likely forgettable in the long term.

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Review: Blockers

Blockers.

Maybe this is the new Superbad for a new generation. But maybe that means I’ve outgrown this, maybe this story isn’t for me. I’m going to try to keep these things in mind as I review this movie.

The gist.

Three high school girls (Geraldine Viswanathan, Kathryn Newton, and Gideon Adlon) all make a pact to have sex on their prom night. However, their parents find out and try to stop this at all costs (Leslie Mann, John Cena, and Ike Barinholtz). We also have minor roles for Gary Cole, Gina Gershon, Hannibal Buress, and Ramona Young (Santa Clarita Diet).

What works?

Like I said in the intro, for high school and maybe young college kids, this might be a defining movie for them. The story of these high schoolers didn’t really resonate with me, but I think it’s starting to be an age thing. You might love this.

The humor is solid, laughs come at you quick, usually due to an incredibly funny performance by Ike Barinholtz, while John Cena and Leslie Mann play more of the “straight man” characters. The humor is raunchy, usually relying on grossout moments combined with sex. If you love that sort of stuff, you’ll love this. But if you find typical gross R-rated comedy to be a little much for you, this movie won’t entertain you one bit.

What doesn’t work?

I gave you two possible reasons already. You might be too old for this and find this crazy high school night a little hard to relate to, combined with incredibly gross humor. You know yourself. You’ll either fall into the category of “I can’t breathe, this is so funny” or “This is disgusting, I want this to end.”

Regardless of your attachment to the humor, I feel like this movie is lacking personality. This is a cast of unknown teens and B-list supporting actors, elevated to the headliners. John Cena is funny in Trainwreck and Leslie Mann has done well in the Judd Apatow films but they’re not headlining stars. Ike Barinholtz is the funniest one here and he’s meant to pop in and be crazy for a bit and then disappear, which has worked for him before. There’s no lead here, there’s no anchor. It feels like the movie is missing a vital piece.

Because of that, my score ends up falling at “middle of the road.” They do their best but their best is pretty average. These are jokes we’ve done, nothing is special. There’s not a lot of heart here and the unknown teen actors don’t really stand out in the way that the cast of Superbad did when that movie arrived on the scene.

Overall…

This is fine but it’s all familiar territory. The adult characters are fine, with the standout being Ike Barinholtz. The kids fare a little less, with none of them really making any sort of memorable mark. The movie ultimately is missing a star and the personality that a big comedic name would have brought. It’s a fun time, especially if you’re into grossout raunchy humor, but overall pretty forgettable.

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Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player One.

I wasn’t a big fan of the trailers for Ready Player One, with the effects looking unfinished and the pop culture references seeming forced. People were excited though, so I knew I had to give it a shot. And boy, am I glad I did.

The gist.

We’re in the future, where we follow a teenager named Wade (Tye Sheridan) who spends most of his time in the OASIS, a simulated world where people can become anything their heart desires. Wade lives as his avatar Parzival and is trying to complete a riddle within the game, left behind by the creator of OASIS, James Halliday (Mark Rylance). The entire world is trying to figure out these riddles because the person who makes it to the end of the puzzle gets to become the owner of OASIS (which means becoming the richest person in the world). There are giant corporations also trying to gain control of the OASIS, including our major antagonist played by Ben Mendelsohn.

The movie is jam-packed with pop culture references, as Halliday was obsessed with 1980s movies, television, and games, but we also have avatars, vehicles, and weapons of every major franchise since then (up to to current day).

What works?

I had a grin on my face for the entire runtime of this film and I was absolutely blown away. The world is incredibly interesting and they manage to explain it to you simply and quickly, with the opening exposition narrated by our lead character. This movie is directed by Steven Spielberg and he does some great work here, able to tap into nostalgia but also deliver a clever mystery and interesting characters without using the pop culture references as a crutch. These characters care about the movies and videogames that pop up, so it makes sense why they’re there. These references are incredibly abundant and I can’t wait to see the movie a few more times to catch things I didn’t notice before.

Tye Sheridan is great as our lead. He’s convincing in his portrayal of a teenager who would rather spend his days in the OASIS as opposed to his real life. The other standout for me was Mark Rylance, who Spielberg has included in his other recent outings Bridge of Spies and The BFG. Rylance gives a subtle performance yet is absolutely captivating and he serves as the heart of the film, sometimes almost literally.

The action is fantastic, especially in a few key scenes. The movie’s first big action sequence is a race, where Parzival drives a tricked-out DeLorean and tries to outrace a whole slew of opponents, but the track is designed to defeat them, including a rampaging T-Rex from Jurassic Park and King Kong. This sequence is absolutely thrilling and teases just how closely you need to be watching for these references and easter eggs throughout the film.

One of my concerns with watching the trailers was the CGI effects for when they were in the OASIS. In the film, they didn’t bother me at all and it made sense that they didn’t always look fantastic because they were supposed to be in a video game essentially, so it didn’t take me out of the experience. And most of the effects were great, especially in these huge action moments.

“Will I enjoy this if I don’t get the references?” I think so, yes. You may not get every little nod and easter egg hidden in the film, but the story itself and this compelling world that has been created is enough to carry this film.

This movie also has a soul to it that Spielberg excels at. It’s joyous. And innocent. I found myself wanting to clap for our heroes and I felt like I was along for the ride with them. It’s an adventure in a way that other current action movies neglect. It doesn’t try to deliver never-before-seen stunts and tricks but it manages to feel more adventurous than those other action films because of its tone and its heart.

What doesn’t work?

My only complaints, and these are minor, was that some of the secondary and tertiary actors weren’t fantastic, but they had fairly limited screentime. For example, a few of their jokes didn’t land or their line delivery felt forced but overall it didn’t effect much of the film at all.

Overall…

I had an absolutely joyous time with this film. Yes, I am (pun intended) the target demographic for this film but even casual moviegoers should have a great time here. It’s a familiar tale but made fresh with interesting characters and clever twists and turns in the story. If you’re a nerd, you’ll likely enjoy this movie even more with the plethora of references and characters and weapons that you’ve seen before. Steven Spielberg delivers an adventure here that is full of heart and soul and there hasn’t been anything like this on the big screen in a long time.

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(Review) Pacific Rim: Uprising

adam review

Pacific Rim: Uprising

The first Pacific Rim film was a disappointment for me, feeling like an entire film full of missed opportunities. They somehow managed to make a movie about giant robots and monsters disappointing. The effects were subpar, the characters uninteresting, and every fight scene felt like a half-thought idea.

So does the sequel fix this? Is this one a decent robot versus monster flick?

The gist.

10 years ago, giant monsters called Kaiju attacked Earth and were defeated by human forces in gigantic robot suits called Jaegers. Now, all seems peaceful, until rogue Jaegers start appearing and there are hints of a reemergence of the Kaiju. We follow Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), the son of a famous warrior (Idris Elba). Jake teams up with an old rival from training (Scott Eastwood) to train a new group of trainees, who can hopefully defend the world. One of these new trainees (Cailee Spaeny) is a former junkyard scrapper who built her own mini-Jaeger.

We also have returning cast members Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori, Burn Gorman as Dr. Gottlieb, and Charlie Day as “Newt” Geiszler.

What works?

Most of you will go into this movie wanting action, pure and simple. You will want giant robots battling aliens. And if that’s your only requirement, this movie will do it for you. The action is fantastic, with most of the fight sequences taking place in the daytime in full sunlight. The action looks cleaner and is much more interesting than in the first film. In the original, there were some huge missed opportunities and moments that would’ve been way cooler than what we saw onscreen. In this movie, I never had that feeling, they managed to take advantage of each action scene to the fullest.

The cast is really hit and miss, though plenty of folks will enjoy John Boyega as the lead. He’s charming, though I felt the humor and poor writing didn’t do him justice here. The real standout is relative newcomer Cailee Spaeny, who manages to add an energy and zest to the sequences she’s in.

What doesn’t work?

Here’s the point where I need to remind you of a few things. I’m a critic so my job is to critique. If you want action and that’s it, go see this movie and you’ll have a good time. But my job is to compare this to other big action blockbusters and tell you if it’s a good movie. And unfortunately, this is not a good movie.

Pacific Rim: Uprising has a few major problems. The script is nonsensical and lacks polish. The core story is disappointing, in that they manage to actually withhold Kaiju until the climax of the film. There’s a few twists and turns that felt like this should be the last-ditch attempt to revitalize this franchise, like the fifth or sixth movie in. This doesn’t feel like a second movie. It’s so simple, just have robots fight monsters, but they instead muddle it with a nonsensical story and a bloated cast of people we don’t care about.

Let me talk about Scott Eastwood for a second. I don’t understand why Hollywood is putting him in these huge franchises. He lacks charisma and energy and he is the most uninteresting person in this movie. We also get other unnecessary characters including Tian Jing (The Great Wall, Kong) that really don’t have a place here, aside from a few deus ex machina moments.

The script also really tries to force humor, capitalizing on Boyega’s charisma. It however fails most of the time. It’s cringeworthy and unneccessary.

Overall…

If you want action, this will do it, though you’ll have to completely ignore the plot that makes zero sense and the characters that are poorly written and often unnecessary. Again, the fights are rad and the special effects are pretty amazing, but I can’t say this a good movie by any means. It’s a straight-to-DVD quality script with a blockbuster budget.

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PREVIEW: The Margins – Graphic Novel

Our friends over at Fanbase Press have offered us a unique preview of their upcoming series The Margins, so below you can read the first 8 pages of this interesting new series.

Synopsis:

Artist Charley Keo’s new gig begins as a fun challenge to breathe new life into the forgotten pulp world of Elad – this time as a comic book. But as tendrils of this lost realm creep into her sleepy Portland neighborhood, Charley realizes that Elad is much more than the lines on a day-dreamt map, more than the sum of an old hack’s prose. Elad has its hooks in Charley, and what was once fantasy has become deadly reality for both the artist and the woman she loves.

Examining creativity’s dual nature in providing a healthy outlet for self-expression as well as a mechanism for avoidance, the graphic novel explores the excitement of an artist unlocking their imagination and the dire consequences of getting lost . . . in the margins.

Written by David Accampo and Paul Montgomery. Illustrated by Amanda Donahue.

And hopefully that’s enough to tease you into looking into this title some more!

I’m intrigued by this title and its unique way to tell a story and multiple art styles all wrapped into one. Fanbase Press has a history of innovative ways to tell stories, so if you want something unique, look into their website for ways to preorder the trade paperback!

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