Sam Review

‘Sam’ is a romantic comedy directed by Nicholas Brooks, son of famed actor/writer/director/producer Mel Brooks (he gets an executive producer credit for this film). When a douchy man named Sam drunkenly stumbles into an antique shop, he is offered tea by the owner. Upon awakening the next morning, Sam finds that he has been transformed into a woman.

Sam, now Samantha, must learn the ins and outs of what it’s like to be a woman, as she faces problems like gender inequality in the workplace, being objectified by men, and the different emotional and physical states in his (her?) new body. As Samantha gets acclamated into her new job (Sam’s old job), she begins feeling more confident and eventuall begins to have feelings for her (his?) best friend, Doc. After weeks of transitioning between genders, Samantha and Doc come to grips with their mutual feelings and develop a romantic relationship, as Sam chooses to remain as a woman.

I totally get what the director was going for in terms of the messages and themes of this film. Brooks did a good job in that sense, relating the struggles of both women and transgendered people in society and in the workplace. Natalie Knepp (Samantha) was very believable as a woman that doesn’t know how to be a woman, as she was initially very awkward, clumsy, and confused. The rest of the cast, however, weren’t all that great. They felt very stiff and seemed to be over-acting a lot of the time. The male characters, like Sam’s boss, Seymour, were completely one-dimensional and portrayed as mindless dopes, making them unlikeable and unrealistic. Doc’s fiance, Cynthia (Sarah Scott), was a very annoying character and the actress playing her wasn’t good at all.

I also had an issue with the pacing and editing of the film, as it felt uneven at times and the scene transitions felt cheaply done. I thought the music, especially in the first half of the film, was strange and out of place. I didn’t really care for the first half of the movie at all, but found myself liking the second half more, as the plots became more realized. This film could have been edited down to get more to the point and not spend so much time with schlocky characters. While I can appreciate the themes presented in this film, overall I didn’t really like it all that much, as it just isn’t the type of film that interests me.

My rating: 5 out of 10

Power Rangers Review

It’s morphin’ time! Fans of the Power Rangers TV series from the 1990s have eagerly awaited this new incarnation of the teenage super hero team, and it’s finally here. Taking concepts from the original series, this new Power Rangers film pays homage to the series including classic characters like Jason, Billy, Zack, Trini, Kimberly, Zordon, Alpha-5 and Rita Repulsa. While keeping some of the campiness that fans grew up with, this new film modernizes the story by switching things up and adding some grittiness that we’ve been asking for.

There were many great moments during the film that overjoyed my adolescent self such as Alpha’s comedic moments with the Rangers, the quick snippet of the new Power Rangers theme, the new-look zords, and some of the one-liners the characters use which were also a part of the TV series. The film did a really good job with character building as we’re introduced to the Rangers and their backgrounds. It was very refreshing to see a diverse cast in different aspects of race, sexual orientation, and the fact that Billy (who is African American in this film) is autistic. This point alone really warmed my heart and will hopefully serve as something people on the autistic spectrum can embrace.

The film was a lot of fun and the special effects were really cool for the most part, though I didn’t really like the look of Goldar. There were some times that the tone felt a little uneven, as it took itself seriously but then switched to more light-hearted, cheesy moments. There were also some logic points that left me a bit confused. How did Rita know about the new Rangers right away? How did the Rangers form the Megazord without knowing about its full functionality? These points are trivial, however, as they aren’t too glaring.

My biggest gripe about the film is the lack of actual Power Rangers action scenes. The majority of the film sees the team not knowing how to morph into their suits and only gets to it at the end during a short battle. I understand that they are just learning about their powers, but there could have been more time spent in the suits. The final battle wasn’t all that great and was mostly spent using the zords. Having more fight scenes in the suits would have made me happier. Rita, played by Elizabeth Banks, was extremely menacing during the first half of the film, but grew more campy as it went along. I appreciate the attempt at blending the two aspects, but I think the filmmakers could have done a better job evening her out. Zordon was also kind of a jerk…just saying.

There was also a cameo from familiar faces towards the end and the mid-credit scene certainly paves the way for a sequel. I can forgive the lack of action since this is the first film in this new franchise and look forward to more now that we’ve gotten a lot of the character-building out of the way. The new mythology the film introduced is a really cool spin on the story we thought we knew and should set up this new franchise nicely.

My rating: 7 out of 10

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Review

‘Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates’ was a film that I definitely wanted to check out, just not in the theatre. After checking it out, it was an ok film. It had a bunch of funny moments, jokes, and gags that had me laughing. It was over the top in terms of how far they took some of the bits and vulgarity.

Zac Efron just has that feel of his character from ‘Neighbors’ and ‘Dirty Grandpa’ and Adam Devine can be a bit much at times, though I do love him in ‘Workaholics’. I wasn’t a huge fan of Anna Kendrick or Aubrey Plaza, I just feel like they were a bit off. I did like the alternate take on the “rom com” genre, as the film is filled with sex jokes and foul language. The supporting cast did a nice job to fill out the characters, who overall were funny, despite the issues stated above.

For an R-rated comedy, this film did its job in entertaining me and making me laugh, which outweighs any of my issues with the small things. For a fun, dumb comedy, I would recommend checking this one out.

The film has a 36% critic rating and a 63% audience rating and went on to make $$73.9 million worldwide on a $33 million budget, leaving the door wide open for a sequel.

My rating: 7 out of 10

Logan Review

The third and final installment of the Wolverine franchise, ‘Logan’ sees an aged Wolverine living in Mexico along with a frail Professor X and mutant-tracker, Caliban. Caliban was previously seen in last year’s ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ in the underground fight club. It’s revealed that Charles is in poor health, having seizures that cause his powers to go uncontrolled. Logan is seen working as a limousine driver to help pay for Charles’ medication and to try to save up enough money to buy a boat and live out on the ocean. Logan is also in a bad way, health-wise. He’s not healing like he should; he’s coughing constantly and limping badly.

When a woman named Gabriella contacts Logan for a job, he winds up getting caught up in her business, as a man named Donald Pierce from Transigen arrives to get Logan to tell him where she is. Logan would later come to find that Gabriella and her “daughter” were on the run from Pierce and his Reavers. Gabriella pays Logan $20,000 and promises $30,000 more to take her and her daughter away to safety. As Logan is about to take them, he finds Gabriella murdered. He takes the young girl, Laura, with him back to his home. Charles had been having visions of her, saying she was a mutant. At this point in the story, there had been no new mutants born in the last 25 years. Pierce and the Reavers show up, Caliban is taken, and the other 3 escape. Pierce is now using Caliban to track the trio, as Logan & co. head to coordinates left by Gabriella. Oh, and did I mention that Laura has the same powers as Logan? She totally wrecks shop and kills lots of people with her claws.

Logan & Charles watch a video on Gabriella’s phone that shows children, including Laura, being experimented on at Transigen. These lab-created mutants were being developed as weapons. Laura, her designation of X-23, turns out to be Logan’s biological daughter, as his DNA was taken during the Weapon-X program at Alkali Lake. Alkali is also behind Transigen. With this new information, Logan seems unmoved, but still continues to trek on. When he finds X-Men comic books in Laura’s bag, he sees a page where a place called Eden is discussed. Eden is a so-called “safe place” for mutants in the comics, and Gabriella believed it to be a real-life representation. Logan becomes furious as he knows them to just be stories.

Flash forward: every once in a while the Reavers show up and there’s a fight. They also have another Wolverine clone, and he winds up killing Charles. Caliban also dies, as he gets a hold of some grenades and blows himself up in an attempt to kill Pierce. Logan and Laura find the other mutant children from Transigen and take shelter with them. Logan is given a serum to help him heal and increase his strength, which he desperately needs to fight the other Wolverine clone. During their fight, Logan is impaled on a tree stump, as Laura shoots the clone in the head with an adamantium bullet. Logan winds up dying of his wounds, as he can no longer heal due to adamantium poisoning that has been slowly killing him for years. Laura buries him and the film ends.

Now that I’ve basically gone over the entire film, let’s get into my likes and dislikes.

Likes: This film would not have been at all the same without an R-rating. And boy, did it warrant it. With lots of f-bombs, extreme violence and bloodshed, and even a boob shot, this film had all the action you could ever want in a Wolverine film. It was gritty, hardcore, and personal. Seeing Logan & Charles’ relationship at this point after 17 years in the film franchise brought things full circle. Charles’ death was impactful to Logan and to the audience in attendance. And yes, Logan dies at the end, leaving me to wonder if such a man could actually die and stay dead. Laura/X-23 was great. The trailers didn’t really get me interested in this film, and I didn’t much care for having a child as one of the main characters, but she proved me wrong. Her brutality and quirks really worked for her character and she was one of the best parts of the film. Even with such a somber tone, there was plenty of humor spread around to lighten scenes. The film was deeply personal and a great character-driven story.

Dislikes

There’s something in me that just feels like the solo Wolverine films are missing something. I’m not sure if it’s just because I prefer him with the X-Men, but I can’t help feeling this way. Throughout this film, Logan & Charles keep referring to an incident in Westchester in which lots of people were hurt. But it’s never revealed what actually happened. Westchester was the site of Charles’ school, and there are currently very few mutants left in the world. The X-Men are all dead. What happened? Did Charles do something that killed them? Did he destroy the school? The answers are never given and the plotline is left dangling. There are also times where the movie really slows down, making it feel longer than it was. As I saw this film at a press screening, I’m not sure if there’s a post-credit scene or not, but the abrupt ending to it after Logan’s funeral was a bit off-putting. He dies, is buried, and that’s it. No hint of anything else to possibly come, no indication that Laura and the other children made it to safety, nothing.

Previously, Hugh Jackman came out and said that ‘Logan’ took place in an alternate universe separate from the main timeline. Comments like this are frustrating to fans of the franchise. I don’t know why Fox has such a hard time with their shared universe, but it continues to be a mess. If that is the case, could Wolverine still show up in any new X-Men films? Hugh Jackman is on record as saying that ‘Logan’ would be his last time playing the character. Stranger things have happened.

Out of the 3 solo Wolverine films, this one is far and away the best one. The intense violence and action help to cover a repetitive storyline. Let’s hope that Hugh comes back to team up with Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool.

My rating: 7 out of 10

Kong: Skull Island Review

Back in 2014, Gareth Edwards’ ‘Godzilla’ opened the door for a new shared cinematic universe of giant monsters. Though ‘Godzilla’ wasn’t the best movie, the framework was set for what could potentially be something really cool. The second film to continue this new universe is ‘Kong: Skull Island’. The mighty ape himself, King Kong would make his first big-screen appearance since Peter Jackson’s 2005 take.

I had been very excited for this movie, as the trailers and promo spots looked really cool. The look of Kong was incredible. The CG work in this film is top-notch. At no point during this film did I not believe that this giant gorilla was a complete digital projection. The action scenes, especially with Kong, were so much fun to watch. Kong is absolutely brutal and this film did such a great job of representing his bestial rage tapered with moments of subtle responsibility.

John C. Reilly’s character, who has been stranded on the island since WWII, has learned from the island natives about both the island’s and Kong’s history and serves as the audience’s insider for information. Knowing that Kong keeps the “skull crawlers” in check and keeps the animals and inhabitants of the island safe from them adds a layer of depth to Kong’s character. Obviously he would be ticked off at invaders dropping bombs on his island, leading to his attack on the helicopter squadron.

Samuel L. Jackson was really good in this film, as his need for revenge against Kong for killing his men is somewhat justified. And yes, there are a few “classic” Samuel L. moments with some of his dialogue. He is so enveloped in his need for revenge that his judgment is clouded even after John C. Reilly tells him of Kong’s importance. Tom Hiddleston was good and the supporting cast of soldiers was fun. But there’s one issue that will lower my overall score of this film: Brie Larson.

Brie Larson is a phenomenal actress. I just don’t feel like this was the right role for her. I’m leaning towards the script and writing for her character being the issue, as she felt typecast in a female role in an action movie. She “tamed” the beast, was somewhat of a love interest for Tom Hiddleston, and was given a few things to do action-wise. For an Oscar-winning actress to be playing a role like this, I don’t feel like the writers or director Jordan Vogt-Roberts did her any favors. I would much rather have seen her take on more of a leadership role as the only female amongst a group of Army soldiers, but that’s just my opinion. I don’t think she was bad by any means, but I think her writing could’ve been better, especially as she is set to play Captain Marvel soon.

There were also some nods to the connection with the new shared universe, with references like the nuclear testing, MUTOs, and the end-credit scene. Overall, I really enjoyed this film. The action was exhilarating, the comedic moments were well-timed, and the world of Skull Island was really cool to explore. I’m very much looking forward to the big matchup between Kong and Godzilla, and I think I might put my money on Kong as the winner.

My rating: 8 out of 10

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Review

After the critical and box office success of 2014’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, it was a no-brainer that Disney/Marvel would continue the story of Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot. The first film was filled with great sci-fi action, hilarious banter and stunning visuals. The film helped bring this obscure team to the forefront of super hero films and had everyone falling in love with Baby Groot at the end of the post-credit scene.

Flash forward to ‘Volume 2’, a film touting the return of the main hero team along with characters like Yondu, Nebula, newcomer Mantis and the inclusion of Kurt Russell’s Ego. Beginning with all previously released marketing material like trailers, TV spots, and merchandise; this new film looked to capitalize on the light-hearted tone of the first movie by upping the laughs and cuteness of Baby Groot. With all of the build-up out of the way, let’s get into this review.

The crux of the plot revolves around the family concept, and boy, is it really hammered home. The audience is finally introduced to Peter’s father, Ego, who is revealed as a Celestial whom is millions of years old. Ego has been searching for Peter and finally finds him, as the Guardians crash onto his planet after Rocket rips off the Soverign. Things seem too good to be true as Peter an Ego are bonding, only to have Ego’s true intentions revealed in the second half of the film.

Along with the main plot, each of the other characters are highlighted in a familial sense. Gamora and Nebula’s relationship sees a lot of development, Rocket and Yondu become fast friends, Drax has some chemistry with Mantis, and Baby Groot does Baby Groot things. Without getting too much into plot points, I’m going to talk about my likes and dislikes.

Likes

This film is visually stunning. I feel like last year’s ‘Doctor Strange’ really raised the bar in terms of effects and ‘Guardians’ maintained the quality. The cosmic side of the MCU is further fleshed out with new planets, creatures, and races like the Celestials, the Watchers, the Sovereign, and the introduction of Ego the Living Planet. I was very curious going into this movie as to how they would portray Ego, as the character is literally a planet in the comics. I liked how they kept the character true to the comic version (though Ego is not Peter’s father in the comics) while integrating a human form to relate to Peter’s humanity.

The action scenes that we did get were pretty cool, chiefly the scene where Yondu lays waste to the Ravager mutiny. Yondu and Rocket were my favorite pairing, as the two are very similar in personality. I did find myself laughing a lot throughout the film, but I’ll talk more about the humor when I get to my dislikes. I enjoyed the reveal of Ego giving Peter’s mother the brain tumor that killed her, as it was a pivotal plot point in the story and helped to integrate events from the first film.

There were also some really cool easter eggs that I picked up on: the incorporation of the quantum realm (also from ‘Ant-Man & ‘Doctor Strange’), the hint of different dimensions, the Stan Lee/Watchers reveal, seeing Howard The Duck again, dialogue about Thanos and the possible future interactions between he and the Guardians, the glimpse at the original comic version of the Guardians team, and the Adam Warlock reveal. James Gunn does such a wonderful job at peppering in these easter eggs for fans of the source material that the common fan may not pick up on.

Dislikes

In recent weeks, my group of friend and I have heavily debated the overuse of humor in both the MCU and comic book movies in general. I had been on the side of accepting the humorous tone Kevin Feige and the film directors have embedded in these films, as they add levity and fun for fans of all ages. After all, the goal is to make as much money as possible, so there has to be elements for fans of all ages to enjoy to maximize profit. However, after this film, I think I have changed my stance on the subject.

This film relied on humor way too much to the point that it took away from the storyline, which was pretty weak. There were very few scenes that didn’t have forced jokes and one-liners thrown in for the sake of appeasing younger fans and it became a detriment to the overall film. For example: Drax the Destroyer didn’t destroy anything. His character was a glorified comic relief part that became stale halfway through the movie. Knowing that his quest for vengeance and revenge at the murder of his family at the hands of Thanos and seeing his physique as a large, hulking man only to be relegated to dumb comedy really hinders the essence of his character. Having Groot in this film was pretty much a waste, as he really served no purpose whatsoever. His tiny form is purely for the sake of selling toys and merchandise and he could have not appeared in the movie at all and it wouldn’t have really mattered. The overall lack of action from the main team was disappointing, as we barely see Star-Lord in action.

The humor in these films is becoming a concerning issue for me, as I don’t want to see intense scenes and plot points ruined by ill-timed jokes, especially as we’re only a year away from ‘Infinity War’. It’s hard to take these characters seriously and leads me to believe they won’t stand a chance against a threat like Thanos. With stakes being raised and the destruction of the universe a real possibility, are we going to see Star-Lord try to dance battle the Mad Titan? Enough is enough.

Closing Thoughts

I didn’t hate this film, but I didn’t love it either. There were a lot of really cool, fun things in this movie that kept me enveloped, but the other issues stated above lowered my overall impression. It’s hard for a sequel to live up to the original film when it’s so well-received, and this certainly is the case here. The cosmic side of the MCU has such incredible potential and can literally take us fans anywhere in the universe. I hope the creative team at Marvel can right the ship and give us high-quality films with more even tones. RIP Yondu.

My rating: 6.5/10

Alien: Covenant Review

2012’s ‘Prometheus’ ushered in a new era of the ‘Alien’ franchise, as the “prequel” saw original director Ridley Scott return to helm the project. Fans weren’t quite sure what to make of the film, as the clarity on it being a true prequel to ‘Alien’ was a bit cloudy. The ending of that film certainly confirmed that it was, as we saw the birth of a new xenomorph. The sequel to ‘Prometheus’ went through many changes, as it was slated to be titled ‘Paradise’ only to finally be officially titled ‘Alien: Covenant’, officially integrating it onto the ‘Alien’ filmography.

Before getting into this review, I want to take a minute to say that I was a giant fan of the first few ‘Alien’ films and ‘Prometheus’. I know a large portion of moviegoers disliked ‘Prometheus’, but I thought it was quite masterful, especially watching the director’s cut of the film. I appreciated the overall theme of the search for humanity’s origins and the integration of religious themes embedded into the film. ‘Alien: Covenant’ has been on my most anticipated films list since it was announced. With all of the buildup out of the way, let’s get into ‘Alien: Covenant’.

Set 10 years after the events of ‘Prometheus’, ‘Alien: Covenant’ follows the story of the Covenant crew on their search for a hospitable planet for colonization. During their space flight, the ship encounters a massive solar flare that kills members of the crew and colonists that are in cryo-sleep, including the ship’s captain, played by James Franco. Second in command , Oram (Billy Crudup) becomes the new captain and the crew receives a distorted transmission that sounds human-like. Covenant pilot, Tennessee (Danny McBride) deciphers the message as it is a woman singing John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads”. The location of the transmission is found on a planet not too far from the Covenant’s location, and the crew vote on investigating, as their original target is still very far.

As the ship lands on the new planet, the crew hits the ground and begins exploring. Members of the crew inhale a substance that causes them to die horrifically, eventually spawning new versions of xenomorphs. The newborn creature kills a few people before they are saved by a shrouded figure, revealed to be the android David from ‘Prometheus’. David takes them to the Engineer city that he has been living in for the past 10 years. The crew also have their own android, Walter, whom is a copy of David with updated software and parameters.

David goes on to tell them how Elizabeth Shaw perished upon landing on the planet and tries to gain the trust of the crew. David has been experimenting on the xenomorph genealogy, and ultimately tries to kill everyone. If you remember ‘Prometheus’, David has a god complex. The xenomorph enters the Engineer city and begins killing more crew members, as David’s plan is discovered by Daniels (Katherine Waterston). Upon arriving to the planet originally, David had released the Engineer-created pathogen into the atmosphere above toe city, killing the planet’s inhabitants. Dr. Shaw is revealed to also have been killed by David, as he experimented on her.

I’m going to save the ending and not reveal what happens, but will instead give my likes and dislikes on the film.

Likes

As I was a fan of ‘Prometheus’, I also loved this movie. It perfectly blurred the line between being a sequel to that film and a true ‘Alien’ film, moreso that ‘Prometheus’ did. The callbacks to ‘Prometheus’ were everywhere. We got to see the Engineers on their homeworld, the Prometheus ship, the pathogen containers and canisters, and even heard the musical theme from the movie. We also got to see a true xenomorph, though slightly different, and got to see the classic eggs, face hugger, and the evil android situation.

The tone of the movie was consistent throughout, keeping the audience on edge while exploring this new world, while maintaining the foreboding feeling of impending horror. The xenomorph kills and mutilations are gory and terrifying, feeling reminiscent of the original films. I loved learning about what David had been up to all this time and understanding his character more. We got to see a flashback scene of he and a young Weyland (Guy Pearce) that further connects the film to ‘Prometheus’ and helps the audience to understand his motivations. David, knowing he’s a creation of Weyland, strives to be something more. We see his experimentations and manipulations in ‘Prometheus’ and it continues here, as his goal is to be God. One final note: I’m so happy with Danny McBride’s performance as Tennessee. If you’ve seen his previous work, he’s primarily a funny-man in his TV and film roles. I’ve been on record as saying that I believe that there’s another side to him that we haven’t seen yet and that certainly shines through here. He’s not very comical in this film at all and we get to see him as more of a dramatic actor and I believe he did a wonderful job.

Dislikes

One of the issues I had was the lack of character development. I didn’t feel very connected to most of these character aside from Tennessee, David, Walter and Daniels (to a lesser extent). All of the promotional material touted Daniels as the next Ripley and while her role grew larger by the end of the film, she wasn’t the major heroine that I expected.

As ‘Prometheus’ ended and Shaw and David were traveling to the Engineer home world, I was very much looking forward to seeing it and their society. I wanted to know why they seeded Earth and decided to destroy humanity with the pathogen they created. Unfortunately, David has already killed all of the Engineers and we aren’t given any of these answers. I think the amalgamation of the ‘Alien’ movies and the ‘Prometheus’ sequel had something to do with this, as it tried to incorporate elements from both franchises but fell just short of being perfect.

Final Thoughts

My positives outweigh my negatives and I really did enjoy this film very much. This is a movie, like ‘Prometheus’, that will take repeated viewings for me to really delve into the small details and easter eggs that pop up throughout the movie. It’s primed for a sequel, as Ridley Scott has announced plans for a new trilogy, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing where humanity travels throughout the cosmos and the horrors they will assuredly face.

My rating: 8/10