Neighbors : Sorority Rising Review

The first ‘Neighbors’ movie was a pleasant surprise. It was a lot of fun, was hilarious, and had a great cast that really worked well together. This year’s follow-up saw the return of Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, and Zec Efron as well as adding Chloe Grace Moretz, in a sequel that very much parallels the first incarnation.

With the premise pretty much the same as the first film, Rogen and Byrne are tasked with ridding themselves of troublesome college students, this time a sorority. While both films are very similar, ‘Sorority Rising’ added some depth to Zac Efron’s character. All of the characters seemed to be in the process of trying to mature, but are sucked back into their vices from the first film.

Filled with lots of laughs, this film was a lot of fun and did its job of delivering comedy. With the high rate of comedy sequels that aren’t very good, this movie certainly does what other comedy sequels fail to do. As I am about to turn 30 and have a family, I could really relate to the characters, as I’m going through similar things in my own life, which made me feel more connected to them.

Incorporating the female antagonists in the movie gave the movie a fun dynamic, as we got to see the fraternity brothers in the first movie. Chloe Grace Moretz did a nice job, getting to play her role with varying moods and emotions. The other 2 main girls were also good in their roles, and their chemistry was good.

I can’t knock this movie too much for being so similar to the first (it’s not like ‘The Hangover 2’ compared to ‘The Hangover’), because it does add those different dimensions while maintaining the same premise, It also had a lot of heart while maintaining that level of crudeness that makes it so fun.

The movie did go on to make $107 million world-wide and holds a 62% critic rating and 50% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Zootopia Review

Disney’s ‘Zootopia’ was a fun, cute, funny film that I really enjoyed. The beauty in making “kid” movies is making it enjoyable for viewers of all ages. Disney & Pixar typically do a wonderful job of making their animated films fun for kids and adults alike. ‘Zooptopia’ certainly fits that mold.

Touting beautiful animation, ‘Zootopia’ had wonderful characters and a great premise that made for a very enjoyable film. The anthropomorphic characters inhabiting this world really stuck with their animal personas and made for great comedic moments. The overall story actually kept me engaged, as it had a mysterious aspect with the crime drama-like plot.

The animal-related corny jokes were perfect, as most children wouldn’t pick up on a lot of the humor in this film, which is what makes it fun for adults to enjoy along with their kids. ‘Zootopia’ had things for everyone to enjoy and have fun with, and I would highly recommend checking it out. The voice cast really brought a lot to their characters and did a good job.

‘Zootopia’ holds a 98% critic ratingand 93% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and went on to make over $1 billion worldwide.

Blair Witch Review

Continuing the story of 1999’s ‘The Blair Witch Project’, ‘Blair Witch’ centered around the character of James, searching for his sister Heather, who has been missing in the woods. James and a small group of friends set out to search for Heather, chronicling their trek via camcorders, much like the original film.

I liked the nods to the first film and how they kept the “found footage” style while subtly changing the cinematography. The original film really put “found footage” on the map, and after all this time, it actually felt a bit refreshing to see it again in this franchise. I had an unnerved feeling throughout most of the film, anticipating creepy moments and jump scares. Any time a film can elicit strong emotions and feelings, it is doing something right, and this movie definitely kept me feeling uneasy.

While this wasn’t the greatest horror movie I’ve ever seen, I enjoyed the film overall and how the tension and creep factor made me feel. This was a miillion times better than the other sequel, ‘Book of Shadows’. If you’re on the fence about seeing this, it’s under 90 minutes and doesn’t feel like it dragged on.

The Congressman Review

‘The Congressman’ is a smaller, independent film starring Treat Williams as a US senator from Maine who seems to be at the tail end of his political career. From his attitude and demeanor, it is easy to see that Senator Winship (Williams) has grown weary from his time in office. His marriage has come to an end and his overall outlook on things have changed since he was a younger man.

Embroiled in controversy in regards to being filmed not standing for the pledge of allegiance (an issue currently relevant in our country today regarding San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick), Winship seemingly makes things worse when he appears to give a Nazi salute to a TV reporter. Other congressional members are now out to have Winship removed from office and have a deal to put his assistant Jared Barnes in his place. Jared also goes through a major transformation in this film, going from a snobbish weasel of a man to a man of character and values.

Winship’s speech at the end of the film regarding the defense of his patriotism actually swayed my own belief in the matter of the pledge of allegiance. While I personally still believe that it’s the right thing to do, no matter where you are, I can absolutely understand the converse side of the matter, moreso than I did previously. His decision to leave his past life behind and start anew was empowering and inspiring. His time on the island truly changed his character, having started to fall in love with a woman named Rae and his affections for the residents of Catatonk.

Before viewing this film, I was a bit hesitant, as politics just aren’t all that interesting to me. But the satirical spin this film puts on the matter made it funny and enjoyable. The real beauty of this film came in the form of Winship’s newly gained perspective as he traveled to Catatonk Island to speak with locals about their overfishing problem. Winship’s trip to the island rejuvented him in a way that he didn’t think was possible, as he had been putting off the trip for a while. I also really loved the music in this film. The indie/folksy vibe of each song fit very well within the context of each scene and the emotions of the situations at hand. The actors played their parts very well and the story was engaging and interesting, even heart-warming at times.

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Review

OK, let’s get this straight: this movie is stupid. But that’s the best part. It’s absolutely supposed to be, and that’s what makes it great. I am a huge fan of The Lonely Island. From their SNL shorts, albums, videos, and movie appearances, I love those guys. I regularly perform “I’m On A Boat” with my buddy, Bill Tozzi, during karaoke.

However biased this review is, due to my fandom, I can absolutely see how other people that are unfamiliar with The Lonely Island and their brand of comedy could have found this movie terrible. It’s an absolute ridiculous and silly movie that is meant for a certain fanbase, so it could have been a big miss with a lot of people. However, for myself, I absolutely loved the outrageous nature of the film and it kept me laughing throughout its entirety.

I loved the documentary-style take on the film, as it chronicled Andy Samberg’s Conner4Real character from his early days, ups, downs, and resurgence along the lines of ‘Walk Hard’. The cameos from music artists like Usher, Snoop Dogg, and a host of others made the story feel real, having real-life celebrities inhabiting the world. The songs were on par with The Lonely Island’s albums and the bits and physical comedy was hysterical.

At no point did this film ever take itself too seriously. Andy, Jorma, and Akiva have such a symbiotic chemistry that they just play off of each other seamlessly. The comedic timing is on point, especially when paired with the supporting cast. I had so much fun watching this movie that I don’t care how silly it was. It’s certainly not winning any Oscars or major awards, but it was something great for their fans and I really appreciated it.

Checking the numbers, the film holds a 77% critic rating and 71% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It only grossed $9.4 million.

For what it was, I loved this movie. I can’t give it a 10, because…I just can’t, but I’ll give it a 9.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Review

The movie began slowly, introducing the backstory of Bruce Wayne and quickly jumping back and forth to scenes of other characters. The theme of pacing and editing, to me, was a major pitfall of this movie. It spent so much time playing catch up by introducing so many new characters all at once that it hindered the story.

Logic would also play into my cons. There were more than a few times I was taken out of the movie  because I had to stop and think about what was happening and I was left confused by a bunch of things. The constant story shifting played into the logistical issues because of how the story was unfolding that it didn’t portray the characters in a very positive light. The action scenes are pretty fantastic. I don’t mind the over-the-top action sequences as long as they’re done in a way that is engaging and meaningful.

Batman, played perfectly by Ben Affleck, has never been so violent and brutal. Gone are the Val Kilmer/George Clooney Batmen. Affleck plays the quintessential Batman, paying homage to George Miller’s “The Dark Knight” comics from the ‘80s. Well played, sir.

Henry Cavill plays a solid Superman, and as a fan of Man of Steel, I had some issues with his character. Logic again, but I won’t get into spoilers in this post. Gal Gadot, after much controversy leading up to the release about her portrayal as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman, was solid as well. The fans in my theatre gave a nice applause when she showed up in her armor, which was nice. This is a very important role for female fans and the future marketing of female-lead super hero films, and Gal did a fine job.

Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Lex Luthor was…strange. His quirks and eccentricities were bordering Batman Forever-like style but saved by his intensity. Ever-faithful butler, Alfred, played by the amazing Jeremy Irons, was a perfect casting. I don’t care too much for Amy Adams as Lois. I find her’s and Clark’s relationship annoying, personally. 

The addition of the “big bad” of the movie, Doomsday, didn’t look all that great and was shoehorned in and didn’t make a lot of sense. The fight scenes were pretty cool, though.

There were a bunch of scenes that were clearly meant to foreshadow the future DC movie universe, but they felt wholly out of place and unexplained. The quick introductions of the future Justice League members in Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman felt forced and out of place. 

The movie spent too much time planting seeds, as it has to quickly establish their cinematic universe and catch up to Marvel/Disney. Although I mostly enjoyed the film, the problems I’ve gone over and others not mentioned lowered my score. I had my expectations lowered early in the week as critic reviews from online sources I follow didn’t give overly-positive reviews. My score would be a 6 out of 10. Keep in mind that’s a pretty decent score, it means there were more things I liked about it than things I didn’t. Would I recommend anyone seeing it? Yes, absolutely. If You’re a fan of the super hero genre, go see it.

Wonder Woman Review

75 years ago, Wonder Woman first hit the comic page in All-Star Comics #8. Since that time, she has gone on to fight Nazis, tackle women’s rights, and even had a hugely popular TV series starring Lynda Carter. As popular and iconic as Wonder Woman has remained throughout the decades, she had never appeared on the big screen until 2016’s ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’, where the super heroine was portrayed by actress Gal Gadot. Fans generally seemed to love Gadot’s portrayal of the Amazonian princess, which led to her first feature film, finally.

As a man, it’s going to be difficult for me to differentiate and articulate my feelings on this film from the overall meaning and message that the movie portrayed. I want to be as fair as I can in terms of my review of the film itself, but also want to take time to explain my feelings on just what this movie means to the general film-going audience. As a man, I cannot accurately depict a female’s perspective on what this film meant to them and nothing that I write can ever come close to it. I also don’t want to give a play-by-play of the film, but will talk about some of the bigger plot points.

When we last saw Diana in BvS, she had just helped Batman and Superman defeat Doomsday. However, this new film is a bit of a prequel. We see a quick glimpse of Diana in the present, where she is looking at a photograph of her and a crew of men, the same photo showed in BvS. This photo is the actual original copy, which was sent to Diana by Bruce Wayne. Diana begins to recall the events that led up to the taking of the photo which sends us back to her childhood on the mystical island of Themyscira. The majority of the film takes place during World War I. With some of the background of the plot and setting out of the way, I’ll talk about my likes and dislikes before giving my overall score of the film.

Likes

Knowing that Gal Gadot hasn’t really been acting all that long and hasn’t been in too many films, I was hesitant expecting her to be great. The short amount of screen time she got in BvS didn’t do much for me in terms of my expectations for her leading her own film. However, I think she did a really nice job in the film. Diana in ‘Wonder Woman’ is a very naïve character, as she’s never experienced the outside world. She has such a big heart and wants to fulfill her duty as a guardian of Earth against the forces of evil, and this aspect is very prominent in the film. Her selfless acts and love for mankind really shine, as she repeatedly puts the needs of others ahead of everything else.

Diana’s character is fleshed out very well and her motivations really struck home for me. The action scenes that we do get to see are very well done and made for fun scenes, as we get to see her powers evolve throughout the story. She really comes into her own by the end of the film and it’s easy to make the jump to BvS. I also really enjoyed the Amazon mythology, as I am a fan of ancient Greek stories. The inclusion of the pantheon of Greek gods into the DCEU is quite an undertaking and I think director Patty Jenkins fit it in very nicely.

I’m also a sucker for period pieces, and with the setting of World War I, a time period that doesn’t get a lot of attention in modern storytelling, the feel of the film with its costumes and mannerisms were really cool. I’m glad that the story didn’t put a giant emphasis on gender inequality, though it is a present theme. I feel like constantly harping on the subject would have taken too much attention off of the main plot. The inequality theme also comes up racially with other characters, which were also enlightening, especially in today’s world. (Side note: it’s disheartening to see that issues that were prevalent in the 1940s are still rearing its ugly head today, but I digress). I enjoyed some of the side characters, but I’ll talk more about them when I get into my dislikes. Overall, Gal Gadot did a really great job in her first leading film and I look forward to seeing more of her in the upcoming DCEU films. The main villain turned out to be formidable and looked really cool.

Dislikes

As I mentioned above, I liked some of the side character, but also had a lot of issues with them as well. Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor was a really nice addition to the film, but I feel like his role took a lot away from Wonder Woman. For a film that has such an iconic female super hero leading her FIRST film, Steve Trevor’s role was too large, in my opinion. There were a lot of moments that could lead audience members to believe that the film was actually about him and not Diana, and to me, this was a mistake. I wanted to see Diana not having to rely too much on Steve’s leadership, but I understand the thinking behind it, as I previously mentioned her naivety. With a film like this, I would have preferred to see more female characters in larger roles outside of the events on Themyscira.

One of the worst characters in the film was Dr. Poison. The trailers depicted her as a large villain in the film and she largely does next to nothing. She really took me out of the film when she appeared on-screen, as the actress portraying her was bad and her facial expressions were ridiculous. She looked like she was constantly surprised at everything going on whenever she appeared. I also didn’t care for Steve’s group of friends. They ultimately had no real skill and didn’t actually do much of anything.

I have one gripe, which may seem trivial and silly, but annoyed me. In the beginning of the film, a quick glimpse of an armadillo scattering across the landscape is shown. Armadillo are indigenous to the Americas, so I’m not sure how one would appear on an island near Greece. If armadillo do appear on other places around the world, feel free to rip me in the comment section of this post.

My final dislike regards pretty much the entire second act of the film. We saw a really cool battle scene of Themyscira at the end of the first act, but after that, the film got very boring with lengthy dialogue and pacing issues that started to take me out of the film. Too much time was spent on things like shopping, planning and talking and I feel like 20 minutes could have been removed to make the film flow more smoothly.

Final Thoughts

Despite some of the issues I had with this film, it was still really awesome to get Wonder Woman her own solo film. Gal’s performance as the most iconic female super hero outweighs some of my issues and I can’t help but be excited for her future in the DCEU. DC/WB still has a long way to go, as BvS was a letdown and Suicide Squad was horrendous. Here’s hoping that Justice League will finally be the film to reel me in completely.

My Rating: 7/10