Friday, July 29, 2016

Mid-Summer Mini Review Bonanza

I apologize, but things have been busy this Summer and I haven't had a chance to give the full review treatment for all the films I've seen lately.  I'll try to make it up to you all with a few small mini reviews of the last 5 films I've seen in the theater over the past month.  Some were really good and some were pretty bad, and here they are in chronological order of viewing.

The Nice Guys

Teaming up Russel Crowe with Ryan Gosling in a retro buddy-cop movie seems like a good idea on paper.  The execution is mixed though and under the shaky direction of Shane Black (Iron Man 3), the final product is a little disappointing.  Both leads are good but the movie is not as funny as it's trying to be and the plot is really convoluted and boring at times.  This is a movie I really have no interest in seeing again.  2.5 / 5 JR Rating

Independence Day: Resurgence

Oh man is this movie a mess.  The public wasn't really clamoring for a sequel to the classic 1996 ID4, but director Roland Emmerich made sure we got it anyways.  Jeff Goldblum and a handful of returning characters are back 20 years later to help.  This includes a grizzled old Bill Pullman as the ex-POTUS, Brent Spiner as that crazy annoying scientist and three totally throwaway appearances by Vivica Fox, Judd Hirsch and Robert Loggia in a brief appearance in what very well might be his LAST film (dude looks like he's about to keel over).  Hirsch's character in particular is totally forced into a useless side-plot where he outruns a giant wave and spends half the movie driving a school bus filled with random kids cross-country.    The big problem is that Will Smith is not one of those back for this go-around (WISE move on his part) and the movie's plot makes sure we KNOW about it with CONSTANT references to his character including having his son take on a lead role in the film.  Add in easily the WORST performance of Liam Hemsworth's young career and you have a steaming pile of crap.  The story stinks, the acting stinks and ONLY a solid special effects sequence in the final act saves this from getting ZERO JRs.  To make matters worse, the ending features everyone getting together and saying they want to go find and kill the evil aliens in ANOTHER movie.  You can count me out this time.  Avoid this at all costs!  0.5 / 5 JR Rating


I wasn't wild about this concept when I heard about it and the trailers for the film did not entice me at all.  I still decided to go see it (yay MoviePass!) and I have to say it was a LITTLE better than what the trailers make it out to be.  That being said, this movie simply didn't need to exist.  Not even close to the quality/humor of the first two, this film spends too much time on special effects and a forced plot that features an annoying little evil loner.  Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones are the best part of the film and there are some good laughs here and there.  Be prepared to see an awful lot of forced cameos from the original cast that simply bloats the movie.  I was entertained at times but I don't need to see this again and I'm NOT excited for a sequel.  3 / 5 JR Rating 

The Secret Life of Pets

Crafted by the same team that brought us Despicable Me and Minions, this story of what pets do when their owners are not around is a real joy to watch.  To put it simple, this is a VERY funny animated film with a good story, great voice acting (including a scene-stealing turn by Kevin Hart as a bad-ass bunny) and some stellar animation.  This is easily the funniest computer animated movie I've seen since Lego Movie and should get an Oscar nom for Best Animated Feature.  For those of you who have seen it, the sausage-land scene is worth the price of admission alone.  4 / 5 JR Rating

Star Trek Beyond

When the trailer for this film first came out it looked like a total disaster.  Directed by Justin Lin of Fast & Furious fame, it seemed like one big action film and looked nothing like a typical Star Trek film.  Thankfully, the trailer was all off and while there is indeed a lot of great action, the plot, acting and pacing of this 3rd film in the reboot series is easily the BEST of the bunch.  Having spent two films laying down the groundwork for having this cast gel together, we are able to see the entire cast react to a classic stand-alone Star Trek plot.  There are several nods to the old television series including a fond farewell to Leonard Nimoy.  Unfortunately, the ghost of the recently deceased Anton Yelchin is on screen a lot and while Anton's performance as Chekov is excellent as usual, you can't help but watch him like a hawk in his scenes knowing he is no longer with us.  I do like the recent idea that came out in the news of not re-casting Checkov in future films as a credit to the young actor gone too soon.  Chris Pine, Zach Quinto and (in his funniest performance yet) Karl Urban are spot-on reprising their iconic roles as Kirk, Spock and McCoy.  The added shine that makes Beyond such a good film is the addition of two new characters.  Sofia Boutella plays a new alien named Jaylah who ends up helping the Enterprise crew.  Her makeup and costume design is awesome and Boutella's performance is a fresh and welcome addition to the Star Trek universe.  I hope she stays on in future films.  Idris Elba plays the role of Krall, the latest franchise villain and gives the character a fierce determined presence.  Towards the end of the film when Elba is allowed to give a real unencumbered performance, he shines and proves he's one of the better actors working today.  This is one of the most entertaining and well crafted films of the year and totally raises the street cred of Justin Lin.  4.5 / 5 JR Rating