Unforgettable: Movie Man Jackson

What will Unforgettable teach a person? Have a Facebook account, Twitter account, something. For Julia Banks (Rosario Dawson), everything seems to be fitting into place. She’s just taken the next step in her editorial career, moving to the sunny West Coast. Her personal life couldn’t be any better, finally meeting the man of her dreams, David (Geoff Stults), and set to be a stepmom to his daughter, Lily (Isabella Kai Rice).

Julia has an unfortunate past that she’s managed to put behind her. If only others, such as David’s ex-wife Tessa (Katherine Heigl) could possess her resolve. Instead, Tessa seems consumed with trying to win David back and disparage his new flame (often subtly) at every opportunity. This suburbia ain’t big enough for the three of them.

As I’ve stated before, one of my guilty pleasure film subgenres is that of the psycholover-ex thriller variety. Most never do reach the heights of, say Fatal Attraction or Play Misty for Me, but they can be—sometimes—enjoyable and ridiculous diversions. Well, except for The Boy Next Door, and now, Unforgettable.

There’s an unofficial theory that yours truly has subscribed to when it comes to what makes these types of these movies successful, or at least worthy enough of a Saturday afternoon Oxygen/Lifetime view. It all comes down to the individual playing the antagonist, and how adept they are at playing crazy. Are they easy to buy as being bonkers? Do they find that early movie sweet spot where there’s something just a bit off about them, but still feel enough like a real person and not a caricature?

Being the antagonist in Unforgettable, this pressure falls unto Katherine Heigl to make this fun and…ahem…unforgettable. Sadly, she will not get a gold star for her work here. Not all of the failure in making this enjoyable falls at her feet, as some of the dialogue is tough for any actress to deliver confidently. But for most of the runtime, Heigl comes off more as a spoiled, privileged, word that rhymes with “witch” as opposed to a terrifying psychopath. And she does nothing memorable to try to be dynamic.

As a result, Unforgettable quickly becomes a dull affair with the typical moments befitting a film like this, with the only slight difference in storytelling being an in media res start from first-time feature director Denise Di Novi (producer of Edward Scissorhands and Crazy.Stupid.Love). It would be one thing if the movie and/or some of its stars recognized some of its schlock and just went with it (à la The Perfect Guy and Michael Ealy), but everything is played so rigid one does wonder the point of its existence.

It’s a shame to see Rosario Dawson in such a tepid production. Still, she manages to play her role as best as she can, providing an adequate protagonist to get behind with a little bit of interesting character backstory. Her chemistry with Geoff Stults is fine, Stults being the average man who is laughably oblivious to just how insane his ex is. There’s the occasionally amusing line from comedian Whitney Cummings, but by and large, characters do and say exactly what you think they would, which gives everything a overly mechanical feeling.

What does Unforgettable even mean in the context of this film? Not sure, but outside of it, it’s a horrid title. Even removing the “un” and calling this Forgettable is probably being too nice.

D-

Photo credits go to collider.com, dailymotion.com, and etonline.com.

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Movie Man Jackson looks at: 2017 Music in Movies (Part 1)

Already time to do this again? This series doesn’t get that much time off…or at least it’s intended to not have that much time off!

For those unaware of what this feature, now four years old, is all about, think of it as a spotlight on some of the better musical pieces I personally found in films that I viewed during the year that were released in 2017. Don’t consider this a ranking (I’ll sometimes list my favorites scores at the end of the yearly series), but again, just a series to give some attention to some musical work I found to be compelling, catchy, mesmerizing, all of the above, etc., in said films.

Don’t consider this a comprehensive list, either. I try to see everything I can, but of course, a big film (or two or three) with a killer score may not always be found here, not because I don’t like its music, but because I simply didn’t watch the film. In my opinion,  I cannot honestly blurb about what I liked/felt about the song chosen without watching the actual film—kind of like watching a film! Context is important! Feel free to let me know in the comments sections as to what I need to listen to and what, if anything, I got right.

A few short-ish notes:

  • This series isn’t my thoughts on movies, though an extremely brief feeling on said movie may be found. As such, the occasional spoiler may be found in my thoughts on the scores/tracks on it, though I’ll do my best not to refrain from doing so. Also, some track names bluntly make reference to specific parts in the movie, keep that in mind.
  • All of the songs I’ve selected appear in their respected movie. Some movies will have the official motion picture soundtrack as well as the score. The score will (almost) always appear in the movie, whereas the soundtrack may appear here and there. Which leads me to the next point…
  • Generally, the songs I have selected are from their respective scores. But, there are a few selections I’ve chosen from the soundtrack, if applicable, because said song adds to the movie immensely.
  • I will try to link to every musical piece via Spotify. Best quality, and the music is legitimately able to be there with no copyright issue. But for some reason, if I can only access via YouTube/Soundcloud, I’ll link to there. I obviously have no control over what does and doesn’t get removed.
  • I’m no musical whiz, nor know every exact instrument (though I do still play the trumpet from time to time :)), I just try to highlight what I really enjoy about the featured selection/selections, sometimes grouped and looked at more collectively than individually. Just depends.
  • I’ve tried to start at the beginning of the year and work through it, though there may be the occasional film that I finally got around to listening to (after watching the movie) that makes its appearance later in the series.

Make sense? Let’s get those ears warm!

Split (composed by West Dylan Thordson)

Opening

A Way Out

Meeting the Others

Arrival

The Beast is on the Move

I wouldn’t expect a cohesive score for a move based on the premise of an individual having 24 distinct personalities (though we only see about 3-5 in the movie). But the fragments we do get, put together by West Dylan Thorsdon, seem to take inspiration from fellow psychological thrillers such as Psycho. The sense of dread and curiosity is thick in tracks like Arrival and Meeting the Others.

But the motif I won’t forget anytime soon is the one found in Opening and The Beast is on the Move. Its distorted-yet-full-sounding strings evoke the sound of a ravenous beast, hungry and ready to feed after a long hibernation. Truly terrifying, whether hearing in headphones or in the seat of a dark theater.

The Comedian (composed by Terence Blanchard)

Jackie In The Rain

Jackie’s Lament

The music in The Comedian is good, easy listening for jazz aficionados (like myself). Nothing extraordinary that raises the movie to extra heights, but it’s more than passable as a standalone listen, especially because the movie is average at best, coming from a guy who was a little easier on it than others.

John Wick: Chapter 2 (composed by Tyler Bates)

Santino 

Razor Bath

The score of John Wick’s 2nd chapter sees Tyler Bates return to compose. This time around, Wick doing business in Rome allows Bates to infuse more strings and classical elements to this sound. In tracks like Razor Bath and Santino, they carry an air of significant darkness, even horror (the 2nd chapter of Wick feels very gothic at times).

Suit Maps and Guns

La Vendetta

Plastic Heart

John Wick Reckoning

Bates re-uses the Story of Wick theme that he established in the first John Wick for the title character in Chapter 2. The theme, now synonymous with Wick, still comes to define the character as methodical, driven, and a guy you simply do not want to cross paths with. John Wick Reckoning plays at the end of Wick’s journey, with a swelling and faint siren that seems to foreshadow what’s to come in Chapter 3. The world may be after him, but he’ll kill them all if he has to.

John Wick Mode (composed by Le Castle Vania)

But, it wouldn’t be a John Wick movie without an explosive, kinetic club track by Le Castle Vania, once again punctuating the many headshots and acrobatics Baba Yaga pulls off in succession, the gunplay often matching the pulses and drops of the beat. A symphony of violence needs music to go along with it, right?

The Lego Batman Movie (score composed by Lorne Balfe, original songs by various artists)

Who’s The (Bat)Man? (performed by Patrick Stump)

If I had to explain to someone who had never heard of the character of the Batman before, I wouldn’t. I’d just play this song for them. The power guitar signifies the gruffness of the popular hero, and the lyrics summarize The Caped Crusader perfectly, while also poking fun at some of the longstanding origins and traits of the character.

Black

Your Greatest Enemy

Battle Royale

A Long Farewell

Lorne Balfe takes musical inspiration from arguably the two most memorable iterations of Batman (Christopher Nolan/Hans Zimmer, and 1960/Billy May). Combining the two styles of Zimmer’s richer sound and May’s lighter, oddball sound seems to be the theme throughout, with an angsty electric guitar used liberally (Mad Max: Fury Road seems to be an inspiration as well). It all equates to a fun listen that pays tribute to while also lampooning its titular character.

Get Out (composed by Michael Abels, Timothy Williams contributing)

Sikiliza Kwa Wahenga

One doesn’t have to be able to understand Swahili to know that the lyrics in Sikiliza Wwa Wahenga, set to the opening credits of Get Out, forecast imminent doom on the horizon. The African vocals, introduced here and heard in other tracks throughout the score, add urgency and unease. What do the vocals mean, specifically? They more or less can be summed up by the film’s title, telling the lead character to run, listen to the truth, and save yourself.

The Deer

Hypnosis

Garden Party

The Auction

Rod’s Bing Search

I can’t recall the last time the harp served as a relative lynchpin for a musical score, but Michael Abels puts the instrument at the forefront of many of his musical ideas in Get Out. The harp has a very soothing and…hypnotic sound that plays on the mind and gets under the skin. It lingers. Seemingly composed from the lead character’s perspective, it makes you think about things you don’t want to think about, or are forced to think about, which of course is something lead character Chris finds himself present to throughout.

Logan (composed by Marco Beltrami)

Main Titles 

Farm Aid

It was as I heard the Main Titles piano piece that I knew Logan was going to be a somber ordeal. Marco Beltrami’s approach to the material lets the visuals and the characters speak for themselves; painting a bleak picture set in the dusty West. Even the musical pieces that punctuate the action scenes, like Farm Aid, feel restrained compared to other action movies. It’s not a score that stands out, because it seems designed to not be as such.

Kong: Skull Island (composed by Henry Jackman)

Project Monarch

I’m just going to leave this video here:

This is a user-created video, showcasing the opening credits music for Kong: Skull Island set to 2014’s Godzilla. The opening credit music from Godzilla is below.

They’re not completely similar pieces, but both do a great job of introducing their main characters with tons of boldness and reverence, and each plays to a backdrop that sort of serves as pseudo-history lesson to the monsters’ origins. I’d love to see Godzilla’s Theme set to Skull Island’s opening credits just to see how it comes off.

Kong the Destroyer

It doesn’t take too long into the runtime to see Mr. Kong in full, his presence announced with Kong: The Destroyer. This is the type of track wanted as the giant ape causes massive collateral damage in an effort to protect his home. Every bit of the orchestra is used, from deep strings, to a tight snare, and bellowing brass.

Monsters Exist

Spider Attack

Man vs Beast

Clear as day that once Skull Island, a movie taking place in the 70’s, sends its expedition team to the jungle that there would be a little bit of the 70’s sound thrown in for setting. The obvious 70’s songs are present, but so are the sounds that fight into movies that Kong: Skull Island fancies itself as (not 100% successfully, but Apocalypse Now being one clear inspiration). The wallowing electric guitar, the ideas and cues the represent the unforeseen—and in your face—dangers of the jungle (Monsters Exist, Spider Attack). Little of it works standalone, but in the course of the movie, it does.

Photo credits go to denofgeek.com, decaymag.com, bluenote.com, tylerbates.com, billboard.com, and blastmagazine.com.

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The Fate of the Furious: Movie Man Jackson

Racing may have left the franchise, but bald heads never will. With Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) finally remembering everything, she and husband Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) are spending some much needed R&R time in Cuba, thinking about what the future holds for them in making a family of their own. It would appear that the Dom certainly doesn’t miss the bullets like Brian once did.

Unfortunately, the bullets and high-risk scenarios always seem to find him; this time, via an enigmatic woman known as “Cipher” (Charlize Theron). Cipher, having secret information on Toretto that puts who he loves at risk, forces him to carry out her dangerous plans by using his own team/family to capture a world-altering device…only to take it from them and deliver it into her hands.

Being crossed, Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), Letty, Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), and Roman (Tyrese Gibson) are left to pick up the pieces. And that means going after Dom and figuring out why, with an uneasy ally in Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) added into the fray.

If Fast Five was Universal doing Marvel’s The Avengers before that movie happened, the latest in the F&F universe, The Fate of the Furious, feels a little like Captain America: Civil War, or The Avengers 3 or whatever. How so? It manages to bring back almost everyone of note while introducing new characters that are sure to play roles in future offerings, and flips the script a little in making a central character a major antagonist. It definitely lacks the emotional aspect of Furious 7, as well as and the large stakes, character moments, and insane thrill ride that was Fast Five. But, “F8,” though skidding more on the road than past predecessors, doesn’t completely wreck itself.

At eight films deep, the Fast and Furious universe has lore. Lots of it, and the eighth installment uses every inch of trunk space it has to accommodate it. In other words, it has continuity…in a way. Thought God’s Eye was just a MacGuffin to never be seen or referred to again? Put to actual good use here! Believed Elena would just slip into the background? Think again. Everyone knows how ridiculous this franchise can be, proudly wearing that ridiculousness as a badge of honor. But credit to where it’s due; writer Chris Morgan continues to draw up new scenarios that give mileage to the universe.

Don’t mistake that praise as complete support for The Fate of the Furious‘ script. It does enough to get by (a poor man’s version of Civil War, even with a bit of The Winter Soldier), with a familiar theme and intriguing reveal. But for some reason, its story holes and matters unexplained actually make one think about them more in a logical way. That’s not supposed to happen with a F&F movie! And as stated before, the continuity generally works, but the end scene (as well as a few others) does betray much of what the prior movie(s) established in the way of character relationships, making it hard to accept that some sins in this world are somehow forgivable.

Director F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton, Friday) makes the third new different director in the last three Fast and Furious movies to helm the film’s physics-defying action. Having some experience in action with The Italian Job, Gray, like Wan, mostly impresses. It’s hard not to be impressed with the massive set pieces, in large part done practically. CGI gets a little iffy at times for such a big budget production. Like Wan, however, Gray comes up short compared to Lin on a hand-to-hand combat level. Not quite shaky cam, but the angles used can sometimes be disorienting. Still, he makes a case to direct the next one if need be.

Perhaps Vin should give directing a shot, with the amount of power he seems to be wielding as of late. Performance-wise, Diesel simultaneously serves up a surprising job in spots, as well as an unintentionally funny one, often in the same scenes. Unfortunately, Paul Walker is missed, not necessarily in the action scenes where he more than held his own, but in the slower scenes. He brought an everyman presence that is lacking here, especially as the lengthy movie grinds to a halt in spots.

The real news coming into F8 was the legit beef between Diesel and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, with rumors being that Vin wasn’t happy with Dwayne stealing some franchise thunder. After seeing F8, I can see why. Johnson is the clear star of this series now, bringing his trademark energy, dead-eye one-liners, and larger-than-life persona to the Hobbs character. Jason Statham eclipses Vin as well, his dry and rugged Deckard meshing well with Hobbs and generating interest in a future teamup. Out of the newcomers, Charlize Theron is the most menacing villain the franchise has ever had, if only her Cipher wasn’t as vague in her motivations. Scott Eastwood and Helen Mirren add name value, little else, but they’re fun enough. Returnees Ludacris, Tyrese, Michelle Rodriguez, and Kurt Russell get little spots to shine, though ultimately take backseats to Johnson, Diesel, Statham, and Theron.

If the Furious series is a mile represented by 10 movies at 1/10th of a mile each, it’s not inconceivable to think it hit top speed a few movies ago, and is decelerating as it approaches the purported finish line. One thing’s for certain, though. There’s no stopping before that line comes, and every drop of gas will be used before it comes.

C+

Photo credits go to irishexaminer.com, birthmoviesdeath.com, and moviepilot.com.

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Blade Runner (The Final Cut): Movie Man Jackson

bladerunnerposter

Man’s creations will eventually rebel against their creators. Los Angeles, 2019. The City of Angels is a place that has seen many of the world’s greatest technological advances. One of these advances is the creation of “Replicants,” androids who look and feel like everyday humans. Proven to be dangerous after an uprising, the remaining replicants are banished outside of Earth and relegated to slave labor.

A few escape, and land back on Earth in search of their creator, whom they believe can help extend their life expectancy. They need to be “retired,” no ifs, ands, or buts. Taken from the shadows is Blade Runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), an individual who specifically tracks and eliminates replicate threats. Upon the course of his investigation/manhunt, he gets romantically involved with an experimental model replicant, Rachael (Sean Young), who believes herself to be human. Deckard’s involvement with Rachael forces him to confront his humanity, as well as those of whom he is hunting.

Almost 35 years after its release (as of this writing), it’s impossible to talk about Blade Runner without acknowledging the impact it has had on the science fiction genre, mainly on the technical side. Almost 35 years later, it’s still one of the better-looking science fictions movies in history.

The dystopian future is a lynchpin of many a feature in the genre, but few, if any, have topped the fully realized vision that director Ridley Scott employs here. Los Angeles circa 2019 world feels authentic and lived-in, and draws one into the film immediately starting with the first interrogation utilizing the Voight-Kampff machine. Production is absolutely stellar, from the way Scott sets up shots, to the impressive score and sound design. Clearly, a sci-fi, however, it doubles as a film-noir (earlier versions feature Deckard narration, thankfully removed) in its use of lighting and plot elements.

Even as a visual tour-de-force, Scott’s Blade Runner is a slow moving film, mainly for the first half. Not until the second half do the themes start coalescing and things become more balanced with action and narrative. Scott tackles issues of oppression and corporate control, but being mainly concerned with what makes someone human. With the protagonist narration removed, Ridley leaves this question open to interpretation for the viewer. 

With all of that said, Blade Runner doesn’t resonate like envisioned, even after two viewings. I look to Scott’s characters as to a reason why, and mainly, his protagonist. Rick Deckard, even as more of his backstory is hinted at, is rather bland and nowhere near as compelling as he should be. As such, Harrison Ford ends up sort of being forgettable. Compare his character to that of Peter Weller’s in RoboCop (a movie that has similarities to Blade Runner but better pacing and memorable central characters to carry out its themes through), and Deckard feels…there. No real reason to get behind him and care about his journey. Why is he a blade runner? Why is he pulled out of retirement to hunt these replicants down, as opposed to someone else?

The replicants actually steal the show, in particular Rutger Hauer as the central leader Roy Batty of the escaped crew inhabiting Earth. Looking the part of an unstoppable killing machine, Hauer and Scott peel back the onion to show that there’s more to his character than that, and ends up being arguably the best character of the entire movie. Another argument can be made for Rachael, played by Sean Young who gives the character multiple layers as well. Rounding out the replicants are Joanna Cassidy, Daryl Hannah, and Brion James—each getting adequate screentime to further sell this created world—but amounting to little in actual people generating feelings from the audience. 

More impressive from the production and vision aspect than a storytelling and character one, Blade Runner is a little disappointing from the latter front. But is it still quite the sci-fi-experience in totality? Absolutely, and for that alone, it’s a mandatory watch for anyone. 

B

Photo credits go to qz.com, rogerebert.com, and dkillerpondworld.com.

For additional detailed thoughts on films both small and large, games, and the key moments that comprise each, check out ThatMomentIn.com. 

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Power Rangers: Movie Man Jackson

Sorry, Tim Hortons and Dunkin’ Donuts. You got outbid by Krispy Kreme to be featured prominently. In the sleepy city of Angel Grove resides five average high school teenagers. Quarterback jock Jason (Dacre Montgomery), popular gymnast Kimberly (Naomi Scott), geeky Billy (RJ Cyler), bad boy Zack (Ludi Lin), and outcast Trini (Becky G) are simply dealing with everyday ups and downs of growing up at Angel Grove High.

That all changes rather quickly, once these five find colored Power Coins. Or rather, the Power Coins have found them, and imbued them with amazing physical powers. Holding these power coins makes them the Power Rangers, and the world needs them now more than ever, for an old threat named Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) is after Earth Zeo crystal. This crystal has the power to wipe out the world. They’ve been chosen, but in order to defeat Rita, this fivesome has to come together as a unit to do so.

 

Here’s the predictable part where I tell about my fond memories of Power Rangers growing up as a 90’s kid. As my parents can attest, my sister and I did like (wouldn’t say love) the original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, up through Turbo. Aged 3-5 during the original air, I can’t remember every detail, but remember the show being good fun. Reboots/re-imaginings get enough grief as is, most of it well-deserved.

But anyone who says the Power Rangers are sacred and should never be redone is wrong. Makes perfect sense to reintroduce them to the world, to some, their first time seeing. And so, 2017’s version of the Power Rangers has enough for old fans to enjoy, but actually is more concerned in charting its own path, which it does relatively well.

Director Dean Israelite takes inspiration from his prior film in 2015’s Project Almanac in what ends up actually working. Throw in a dash of Chronicle and a pinch of The Breakfast Club and you have what makes up the first two-thirds of this film, certainly not original but very functional. The enjoyment of 2017’s Power Rangers will likely be directly correlated to how much one is invested in these five characters before they finally don the iconic suits. Make no mistake about it, it’s a surprisingly slow burn to the stuff that seemed to comprise most of the 2nd trailer.

And surprisingly, it’s actually the best part about the movie. Sure, there’s some lame dialogue here and some odd tonal inconsistencies there, but all in all, the characters are pretty endearing, and it pays homage to the original in the sense that the original could be goofy and corny quite often. The five who make up this iteration of Rangers are competent on the acting front, even good more often than not, with the scene-stealer being RJ Cyler as the quirky but most pure personality Billy Cranston.

Though he’s the Blue Ranger and not the official leader, he’s just as much of a leader as Red Ranger Jason is, played by Dacre Montgomery. Females Naomi Scott and Becky G bring attitude. If there were one slight weak link in the five, it’s Ludi Lin as the brash Black Ranger, not necessarily due to anything he does, but the character tests the nerves for a while. The presence/voices of Bill Hader and Bryan Cranston add a lot to Alpha 5 and Zordon. All, even Alpha 5, come off as somewhat grounded in reality, except for the villainous Elizabeth Banks. Her turn as Rita Repulsa initially starts out interesting (and frightening), though by the end veers into the dark recesses of Campyville.

When it comes to action and direction, Power Rangers 2017 is merely okay. A good amount of the scenes feel like they were shot in the dark for no real reason, and the camera in two main chase scenes is all over the place. Israeilite’s camera work/editing feels akin to a video game with great graphics (the suits and overall design are a major plus), yet inconsistent framerate. The action in Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers was never all-out frenetic, but neither plodding (like it can be here), either. With that said, some moments do deliver and are fun to look at.

The Power Rangers are back for a new generation. Six movies seems like a aye-yi-yi-yi-yi stretch, but the first installment sets things off on the right foot.

B-

Photo credits go to morphinlegacy.com, screenrant.com, and comicbook.com.

For additional detailed thoughts on films both small and large, games, and the key moments that comprise each, check out ThatMomentIn.com. 

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CHiPs: Movie Man Jackson

The only question to be asked is “Why?” In Los Angeles, the California Highway Patrol welcomes in two new members, Frank “Ponch” Poncherello (Michael Peña), and Jon Baker (Dax Shepard). Their reasons for being in the CHP differ. Ponch, a successful yet difficult-to-deal-with Miami FBI agent, has been assigned to work undercover within the department, while Baker is a rookie who has been accepted into the force on probationary status. Once a champion motocross rider whose injuries have taken a toll on the body, Baker is now in a failing marriage with Karen (Kristen Bell), and feels that becoming an officer is the only way to save it.

Ponch’s task while undercover is to figure out if there is some corruption going on in the department, as it is suspected that a few officers know something about a robbery in which millions were stolen in broad daylight. His partner on the case is Baker, since he’ll generally stay out of the way. Immediately the two do not click, but they’ll have to in order to solve the case in which they may be the only two clean cops on the roster.

The tagline “Chip happens” may be the lamest tagline a 2017 major movie release possesses. It serves as a sign of what’s to come. The 2017 feature movie re-imagining of CHiPs, from the late 1970’s TV drama series, is pretty lame. If this were a police test and CHiPs were a prospect looking to pass, they would fail, and I’m not even confident they’d be asked into the compound to take said test.

Where to start? Dax Shepard wears a lot of hats for this one, in charge of writing, directing, producing, and co-starring. The writing’s pretty abysmal, especially when one considers that 21/22 Jump Street have provided the perfect template for these types of remakes to succeed, or at the very least, be mildly entertaining with some meta-humor and/or self-realization of their existence.

What Shepard concocts here turns out to be a crime movie that is simultaneously predictable (corruption) yet still jumbled (extraneous details and leads that make little sense). Doesn’t help that it feels like at least a fourth of the dialogue consists of the words “dude,” “man,” “homey,” or “bro.” I’m often against having too many cooks in the kitchen from a writing standpoint, but maybe Dax could have used another hand to bounce ideas off of. All of this makes an average length runtime much longer than it is.

The action area is one area where CHiPs isn’t completely deficient. While nothing is spectacular, the few scenes do manage to be mild “high points” in a movie devoid of them, in particular, the vehicular chases, which surprisingly feature more carnage than one might believe. Maybe Shepard should just direct a traditional actioner, because it still comes back to the humor, or lack thereof.

Oftentimes, a buddy cop movie will succeed in spite of its shortcomings if its two leads have a good on-screen rapport and comedic timing. Peña and Shepard don’t have enough of it to elevate the material. Peña, who can do a lot in Hollywood, in particular feels handcuffed by Shepard’s writing. Little of this seems improvised. He’s trying, but the best humor garners little more than a chuckle or two, if that. He was funnier and more endearing in End of Watch. Little can be said that’s positive for the rest of the cast, either. They all fill the most basic thinly sketched characters, be it a shady lieutenant (Vincent D’Onofrio), a witchy wife (Kristen Bell), or love interests for our heroes (Jessica McNamee, Rosa Salazar).

At the start of the movie, there’s a disclaimer stating that the real life California Highway Patrol doesn’t endorse anything that happens in CHiPs. Neither should you.

D-

Photo credits go to IMDB.com, digitaltrends.com, and collider.com.

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Life: Movie Man Jackson

Let’s have the rapper Big K.R.I.T tell the people what he has to say about life. All aboard the International Space Station resides a crew of six individuals. In their space exploration, the crew recovers a probe from the planet Mars. This probe ends up containing extraterrestrial Life.

Tests show that this tiny organism—dubbed “Calvin”—is multi-celled, reacting to stimuli quickly and evolving rapidly. However, a specific test ends up making Calvin “aggressive” in ways that cannot be believed. With the crew’s safety compromised, they have to contain the threat and eliminate it before coming back to Terra firma. Good luck.

With the arrival of Life in theaters, I think we’ve officially reached peaked space disaster survival movie levels, if we haven’t already. They’ve always been present, but, pun intended, they always felt spaced out release date-wise from one another. From Gravity to Interstellar to The Martian to Europa Report to Passengers, all may be slightly different in the questions they pose to audiences (sometimes, none), but they are kind of the same when boiled down to the core. This is a way of saying Life has some solid good thrills and chills, good direction, and yet is still sort of underwhelming.

All of those aforementioned films are survival films to an extent, but Life, directed by Daniel Espinosa (Safe House), carries a noticeable horror lean, which slightly separates it from its like minded brethren, even if ever so slightly. Taking cues from Alien, Espinosa creates palpable tension and a real feeling of isolation once s*** officially hits the fan. It’s a good looking movie overall, too, incorporating much more CGI than anticipated, but it blending seamlessly with the real-life cast. Some moments truly do stand out.

Generally speaking, yours truly likes his sci-fi to be thought-provoking, and raise a question or two. In the case of Life, that sadly never happens. Scriptwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick opt for the extremely conventional route here, settling into a (I hate this phrase, but it applies) by-the-numbers affair. Remove the organism, replace it with Jason, and voila! You’ve got Jason X. That’s not to say things aren’t still tense, but more predictable. The ending certainly leaves things open to more installments, though the prospects of this happening with the projected box office are slim to none at the moment.

Life boats three big name leads to carry matters, and they all do relatively good work despite being pretty flimsy. At times here, the great Jake Gyllenhaal looks like he’s sleepwalking through the proceedings, as a result of not having much to latch onto from a character perspective. But he, like all of the cast, still sells the fear that arises in being in space on a derelict ship with an unpredictable entity effectively.

This is a film that doesn’t concern itself with character information, just the scenario its characters find themselves in. The highlight of the movie is easily Ryan Reynolds, who brings levity to the situation without undermining it (in addition to having the most memorable scene). All of the cast members feel right at home as doctors and crew members in space, which does a lot for the believability aspect. Don’t expect to connect with any, though.

The fact of Life? It generates a passable pulse, taking similar jolts from other films to make a competent, if unspectacular, horror in outer space.

C+

Photo credits go to Youtube.com and Comingsoon.net.

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Kong: Skull Island: Movie Man Jackson

The king stay the king. In 1973, the Vietnam War is winding down, and the United States is beginning to pull all of its assets out of it. While this is going on, a small government organization known as Monarch makes a pitch to its higher ups about exploring an uncharted territory known as Skull Island. Monarch’s leaders William Randa (John Goodman) and Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) have their reasons for wanting to go, but all they’ll say is that this is for geological purposes.

Going to a place no one has traversed before means Monarch is going to need an expedition squad. Led by former British military operative James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), and Army Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) and his unit, Monarch is able to make their way unto the island and conduct research. Immediately, King Kong himself appears, defending his home from these intruders. Little do these people know, Kong is actually protecting them, for what lies on the island is just as dangerous—if not more so—than Kong is.

 

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Or in Hollywood’s case, hoping to make money. Having a shared universe is all the rage now, starting with Marvel’s first stab at it almost a decade ago and now Warner Bros’ attempts with the DC Extended Universe and a “MonsterVerse.” Why a universe needs to exist for what only looks like two main characters in King Kong and Godzilla, I’ll never know, but we have it. Kong: Skull Island is here, and…it’s a passable, relatively entertaining, blockbuster.

Even though the two share a genre and now a universe, in many ways, Skull Island is the inverse of the Godzilla we saw in 2014. That monster movie was so methodical in its approach, it almost wasn’t a monster movie, and it chose to hide its star well into the runtime, which divided some people. For those looking for mayhem immediately, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts delivers on that front quickly.

Kong smashes. Kong pounds his chest. Kong causes massive collateral damage. Simply put, Kong does what one expects him to do, and he does it well, he’s rendered well, and it looks well. The fictional island serves as a good playground to showcase Kong, despite its lack of verticality. Not all of it looks stunning; some of the monsters Kong does battle with look a tad cheap, and a massive set piece hazed in green fog gets a little wonky, but as a whole, Kong: Skull Island features solid cinematography.

The script, penned by Nightcrawler writer Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, and Derek Connolly, is another story. No, it’s not deplorable, but it’s hard to tell if they wanted the story to be more than it is. Which isn’t much. On one side of the prism, Kong: Skull Island aims low, simply providing a vehicle in which a 30-something foot tall behemoth can wreck things, people, and other large creatures, with some mostly poor attempts at humor thrown in for good measure. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there are moments where it feels like this movie is aspiring to be in the vein of Apocalypse Now, Platoon, etc., and it doesn’t possess those movies’ narrative/character impact.

Many of the characters that land on Skull Island are rather bland, which is surprising for a cast that features such big names in Hiddleston, Goodman, and Larson, along with up and comer Corey Hawkins. Not to mention other fairly notable names such as John Ortiz, Toby Kebbel, and Shea Whigham who end up being fodder or take space. Three characters that stand out a little are Samuel L. Jackson (refreshingly not in complete SLJ mode until arguably the end), John C. Reilly (great backstory), and Jason Mitchell, mostly due to his charisma. Unfortunately, the glut of characters featured gives Skull Island a feeling of overstuffedness. Just five or six less could have given more attention to the ones that mattered.

As it stands though, Kong: Skull Island does its part in laying a nice base foundation for The Eighth Wonder of the World, placing him on a collision course with The King of the Monsters.

C+

Photo credits go to birthmoviesdeath.com, toofab.com, and movieweb.com

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Table 19: Movie Man Jackson

There’s the devil’s rejects, and there’s the wedding rejects. Eloise (Anna Kendrick) was slated to be the maid of honor for her best friend’s wedding, but a recent messy breakup with the best man in all of the proceedings,Teddy (Wyatt Russell), has left her in a bad way. Not wanting to attend, she decides to, only because it’s her best friend getting hitched.

No longer being a central part of the ceremony, Eloise is relegated to Table 19, where all of the people who have only the slightest connections to the bride and groom take space at. These people include the rocky Jerry & Bina Kepp (Craig Robinson, Lisa Kudrow), awkward Walter (Stephen Merchant), preteen hormone raging Rezno (Tony Revolori), and retired nanny Jo (June Squibb). They are the forgotten at this wedding, but rest assured, by the time this ceremony is over, they’ll make their presence felt.

 

The Breakfast Club at a reception table? Or maybe the Suicide Squad (hyperbole) at a reception table?That’s kind of what Table 19 comes off as. Just without the memorable characters or honest feel-good aspect of the John Hughes classic. Popular acting names and a tight runtime can’t save this production from feeling predominately forced.

Independent movies can be cool sometimes, offbeat and charming enough to compensate for real flaws. And other times they can be just as lazy, if not more so, than their big budget brethren, relying on being an indie movie for artificial heart. From the get-go, something feels off with Table 19. Maybe it’s the song used, or how the meat of the story is set-up, essentially in a montage that does little to expand on its characters. In about five minutes’ time, the rejects are brought together and the story starts. Very haphazard it is, and director Jeffrey Blitz seems to rely on the novelty of the idea to sell what happens rather than any real solid writing. While some characters’ backgrounds are delved into at the table (Kendrick, Robinson, Kudrow—the focus is primarily on them), some are not (June Squibb, Tony Revolori, Stephen Merchant).

 

One of the biggest—if not the biggest—issue with the comedy-drama Table 19 is that it isn’t competent in any of its tagged genres. Save for Stephen Merchant, who is funny more times than not, the movie fails badly to tickle the funnybone. This shouldn’t be hard with Craig Robinson, Lisa Kudrow, and to some extent Anna Kendrick as known quantities in comedy, but I can’t remember laughing once legitimately to anything their characters said or did. Most of them are written to be annoying or flat out uninteresting. One can see why each of them was relegated to the table no one would really notice. The drama is written so thick and melodramatic it’s hard to take seriously. There’s some meaning of “people not being right for each other yet actually being right and that’s love” that is just as messy as it sounds.

Doesn’t help that Blitz edits Table 19 in an odd way, for a significant period in the runtime cutting between the reception and serious moments with the outcasts all alone in a hotel room. It’s distracting, and does little, if nothing, to connect more with the characters. 2017 is still young, but an early contender for Worst Scene of the Year award has emerged in Table 19, featuring a shirtless Robinson entering a shower with a bare Kudrow trying to find the spark again set to awful background music. Not romantic or heartwarming, just awkward and embarrassing. The “happy ever after” ending doesn’t exactly come out of left-field, but is not earned.

Outside of a briefly fun premise and an amusing Merchant, Table 19 doesn’t do anything well. Even if you could sit at this table, you wouldn’t want to.

D-

Photo credits go to justjared.com, out.com, and YouTube.com.

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Logan: Movie Man Jackson

loganstub

Father time is forever, and will always be undefeated. In the future (2029, to be exact), the famous/infamous X-Man Logan (Hugh Jackman), spends his days in relative isolation on the Tex-Mex border, working as an Uber-driver of sorts. He takes care of a physically and mentally debilitating Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), still seen as a weapon by the U.S. government. His goal is to make enough money to get away from all of this and spend their lives in peace as the last known mutants on Earth.

Professor X is declining in health, but so is Logan. The Wolverine no longer has the rapid healing factor he once possessed, and each enemy encounter takes longer to recover from. His path crosses with a woman who needs his assistance getting a young girl, Laura (Dafne Keen) to the border of U.S./Canada for her safety. Why, Logan does not know, but he soon finds out that many bad people want Laura for unknown reasons, and unfortunately, he’s connected in all of this. He has to do something, reluctant as he may be.

professorx

The X-Men, and by the associative property, Logan/Wolverine, have been around for 17 years now. And yet, people never really talk about them or their characters in the same vein like they do an Iron Man, Spider-Man, Captain America, or Batman, despite that 2000 film sort of paving the way for modern day superhero movies. Box-office wise, mutants haven’t carried the same monetary reward like their aforementioned brethren have (though this past weekend, Logan has posted quite the number at 85 million plus, making $400+ worldwide a damn near certainty). My point is, with regards to the characters of the X-Men universe, perhaps we should talk about them in the same vein as those others. Or at least Logan.

James Mangold (The Wolverine, 3:10 to Yuma) returns to direct (and this time, write) Wolvie’s latest outing after redeeming the character from 2009’s disappointment, X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The Wolverine was a good start really expanding its title character’s warrior/samurai backstory/parallels, only succumbing to “comic book-ness” and poor CGI in its final act. But Logan fully capitalizes on the 17 years most of us have seen Jackman as Logan. There’s a reason this is called Logan and not The Wolverine 2 or something similar. This is a very mature, character-focused production that does like to take its time (occasionally, plodding so) in telling its story and relationships.

Of course, there are many scenes that feature the usage of superhero/villain powers, but honestly, Logan never really feels like a superhero movie. And that’s a good thing. It’s integrated with the X-Men universe, but barely. Mangold and Jackson seem to want to have nothing to do with the X-Men universe. I made a point before about how the traditional Western is a thing no longer, but that that modern Western of nowadays and likely, the future, is a genre that is fused with other ones.

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Logan is, unofficially, a Western. The old, world-weary outlaw in the middle of nowhere, facing odds that are slim to none for survival against a heaping of mostly faceless opposition, defending something or someone because it is ultimately the right thing to do. Certainly not an original story (shades of Midnight Special and The Last of Us are apt comparisons), but the attention to detail and minimalist scenery Mangold uses to tell this story for a traditional superhero comes off as fresh. Logan, crazy to say, is relatable, in ways most “superhero” movies aren’t.  Sacrifice, pain, and duty are all words floated in many a comic book movie, but in Logan, they seem tangible.

And then there’s the biggest talking point of the Logan movie: Its R Rating. Not much more can be said by yours truly that one hasn’t heard at this point in time, but it bears repeating. This is absolute brutality the likes of few, if any, comic book movies have ever possessed on the silver screen, with amazing sound effects. But it, and the heavy tone in general, feels necessary, a natural progression for the characters of Logan and Professor X making their final stands. Some of the F bombs (and hit/miss humor, for that matter) do feel more like “Hey, we’ve got a R Rating now, let’s throw this around just because!” instead of natural, but most do end up sounding fine.

For over a decade, Hugh Jackman’s been turning in excellent performances as Wolverine, and yet, this is easily his best one as this character. Probably because he has more to do as Old Man Logan. Jackman sells the emotional and physical pain we are witnessed to from the get-go; it honestly hurts to watch him limp everywhere. Likewise for Patrick Stewart, who still serves as a father figure to Logan despite the worsening conditions he’s dealing with. It’s a relationship the duo have always had since the very first X-Men, but finally, it’s fully realized on both ends, as both assume the role of father and son throughout.

Brand new youngster Dafne Keen fits well with the established thespians, not being forced to do a ton dramatically until the end. Too early to say she’s a star in the making (not much to really go off of), but is believable for this part. No one else stands out all that much, even the villain(s) and Boyd Holbrook, not written with much meat, but passable for the plot at hand.

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Balls out, claws out. The last iteration of Hugh Jackman as Logan does just that, culminating in an emotional ending that ties any loose ends or lingering matters. A real downer that this is it for Jackman in a role he’s made iconic, but it’s always best to go out on top.

B+

Photo credits go to comicvine.gamespot.com, ign.com, and bustile.com.

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