Friday, July 21, 2017

Movie Review: "The Beguiled" (2017)

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Director: Sofia Coppola
Year: 2017
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 33 minutes

In Civil War-era Virginia, a group of young women at a boarding school find and nurse an injured Union soldier back to health. His presence and charm, however, cause tension and jealousy among the women.

"The Beguiled" is written and directed by Sofia Coppola, who is known for films like "The Virgin Suicides" and "Lost in Translation." It is an adaption of the novel "A Painted Devil" by Thomas P. Cullinan, which was previously adapted into a film also called "The Beguiled" starring Clint Eastwood from the 1970's. This version stars Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, Oona Laurence, Angourie Rice, Emma Howard, and Addison Riecke, who make up the students and teachers at a girls boarding school in the Confederate state of Virginia three years into the Civil War. Joining them is Colin Farrell, who plays injured Union soldier Corporal John McBurney, who the women take in in order to nurse him back to health. John is very charming, and the girls and women who live in the boarding school try their best to impress him the second he hobbles through the door. They give him little gifts, they come into his room and talk with him even though they aren't allowed, they wear lavish jewelry and fancy dresses to impress him, etc. John does not rebuff these advances, and in fact, relishes in the attention. He openly and outwardly flirts with a couple of the women, wooing them by asking about their hopes and dreams in an attempt to gain favor with them. This leads to drama, in-fighting, and jealousy inside the house.

When we saw the trailer for "The Beguiled," we got really excited for it. It was cut in a way that gave it a "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned" revenge thriller feel. We hadn't seen the original film (we purposefully avoided it in order to come into this version with no preconceived notions) and we hadn't read the book, so we knew nothing of the source materials. We are a little bewildered that this movie is not as the studio sold it to be.

For the most part, it winds up being a bit of a stodgy dramatic period piece/Civil War western where several women fawn over a man who has fallen into their laps. There are some tense moments later on in its run time, but we feel like most of the tension stems from an overreaction to an accident that occurs during an argument rather than genuine malice. Dunst's Edwina Morrow wants to be taken far away from the boarding house, Fanning's Alicia finds herself bored with her monotonous studies and wants to shake things up by flirting with McBurney, and Kidman's Miss Martha Farnsworth won't admit it, but could use a helping hand around the house since she's has been doing everything herself for God knows how long. Are these ladies beguiled by Firth, is he compelling them to fight amongst themselves for his affections, or do they see him as the way out of their individual situations? Luckily, the picture is excellently acted. Every single person in this picture is cast perfectly, from the innocent Amy, played by Laurence, to the coquettish Alicia, played by Fanning. Kidman, Dunst, and Farrell dominate the screen with their commanding portrayals. The costumes are extremely well made and look appropriate for their time, and the entire film is beautiful, hauntingly shot by Sofia Coppola.

Though anchored by four tremendous performances from Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Colin Farrell, and Elle Fanning, "The Beguiled" winds up being a movie that's better looking than anything else, which may have been the opposite of what it intended to do. The story leaves a lot to be desired despite the occasional fantastic line of biting dialogue. It's only sporadically intriguing, and most of the engaging parts happen as the film winds down. BigJ found himself fighting off yawns for much of the first two acts, and while I was invested in the movie the whole way through, I will admit, there's a little too much "waiting for the other shoe to drop" for my liking. There's probably something to be said about how preconceived notions affect our judgment, and in turn, our actions, but it sadly isn't explored in the most entertaining fashion.

My Rating: 6.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~7.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~77%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Movie Review: "iBoy" (2017)

Director: Adam Randall
Year: 2017
Rating: NR
Running Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

After Tom walks in on a gang of attackers assaulting his crush, he runs away. The attackers give chase. As Tom attempts to phone the police, he is shot, and the bullet embeds a piece of his smartphone into his brain, which has unexpected side effects. Now, Tom is out for revenge.

"iBoy" is the second feature film directed by Adam Randall. It is based on a novel of the same name by Kevin Brooks. The film stars Bill Milner as Tom, who eventually becomes the titular iBoy after having a piece of his smartphone embedded into his head by a bullet. Joining him is Maisie Williams as Lucy, the girl Tom has had a crush on for as long as he can remember. It is at Lucy's apartment where Tom walks in on a gang who have just attacked and raped her. Scared and unsure what to do, Tom runs and is eventually met with a bullet. Upon waking from his attack, he starts to discover he has unexpected powers, and now has a means for revenge. He becomes iBoy, you know, because he is a boy and has a piece of an iPhone stuck in his head, so now he's iBoy.....get it?!

This British sci-fi quasi-superhero flick has a pretty absurd concept, but really, what superhero film doesn't? The idea of someone getting a smartphone chip lodged in their brain by a bullet which gives them superpowers is a kind of a weak premise. Then again, redundantly so, so are many superhero origin stories. If you can accept this premise, you may somewhat enjoy this film. It's a British urban superhero story that attempts to have some grit and drama added on top of an already dramatic premise. It deals with gangs, rape, and murder, which are clearly much more mature themes and plot points than we had imagined from a movie called "iBoy." In some ways, this might hurt the movie as a whole. This is obviously a project geared towards teenagers with a title such as this, but the themes may be far too weighty for a lot of young adults.

Though this is a superhero flick heavy on the drama, it isn't completely absent of fun as Tom's abilities, no matter how ridiculous they are imbibed to him, are pretty cool. He can interact with other electronics with only the power of his iMind...ugh, these silly names make it really hard to write a serious review. There are a couple moments of tension and brief spurts of action, but the pacing is a bit slow, which can make this rather short movie feel much longer than it is. The acting is only passable, unfortunately. Maisie Williams gives the most notable performance as a young woman attempting to deal with the aftermath of being brutally raped, and honestly, she's too good for a low-level picture like this.

In the end, though not a complete waste of time, "iBoy" winds up being much darker than we expected, and it's ultimately a forgettable, rather pedestrian affair with some cheesy fight choreography and a predictable premise. It's got some interesting elements and visuals that are hurt by its dopey premise and lack of capable acting.

My Rating: 5/10
BigJ's Rating: 6/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 60%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Movie Review: "The Fifth Element" (1997)

Director: Luc Besson
Year: 1997
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hours, 6 minutes

Four element stones, along with the fifth element, must brought to Earth to fight off an impending evil that's only purpose is to destroy life.

"The Fifth Element" is written and directed by Luc Besson, who is known for directing movies like "Leon: The Professional" and "La Femme Nikita." It stars Milla Jovovich as the titular "Fifth Element" Leeloo, the prime element in the Mondoshawan-developed weapon that has the power to defeat the life-destroying evil. It also stars Bruce Willis as cab driver and former special forces major Korben Dallas, who helps Leeloo in her quest to stop the ultimate evil. Joining them are Ian Holm as Father Vito Cornelius, the keeper of the key and the Earth contact of the Mondoshawan, Gary Oldman as Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg, a wicked industrialist aiding the ultimate evil in its destruction of Earth, and Chris Tucker as entertainment personality Ruby Rhod, who is the comic relief side character who gets trapped in the chaos.

Speaking of chaos, that's actually a good word to describe "The Fifth Element" as a whole. There is a whole lot of it in this flick, and every scene seems to get progressively more chaotic than the last. A the minutes tick by, the film gets more and more complex as well as there are a lot of moving parts and characters adding to this sci-fi action adventure. Somehow through it all, director Luc Besson manages squeeze a coherent narrative out of it. Sure, it is a bit contrived at times. Much of what happens is convenient to the plot or is simply luck encountered by the characters, but in the words of Maximus Decimus Meridius, "are you not entertained?" This film is colorful and vibrant with a lot of wonderful makeup work, interesting sets pieces and brilliant costumes, and tremendous, otherworldly, fantastic special effects. It is quite the visual smorgasbord, and the movie is almost worth watching for these effects alone. It really is like being transported to the future. The acting isn't all that great, though we do love Bruce Willis doing his snarky, dry witted, tough guy routine. We also enjoy Gary Oldman's over-the-top maniacal antagonist and Chris Rock's outrageous, gif-able personality as Ruby Rhod, but the acting isn't exactly "good." Speaking of Willis and Oldman, this movie does have a unique bit of trivia. Gary Oldman is one of the primary antagonists and Bruce Willis is the the hero character of the story, and yet they never share a single scene together. Their plans keep interfering with one another as they work for opposite goals, but the two never actually cross paths.

We really enjoy "The Fifth Element" because of the lively, energetic colors and costumes, the action packed thrills, the humorous comedy, and the wonder of this in-depth world. It's quite and enjoyable viewing experience for sci-fi lovers.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 72%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Shaker & Spoon Subscription Box Review!

We have another special post for you today! We were sent a subscription box from Shaker & Spoon to review on the site! For those who don't know, Shaker & Spoon is a subscription box service unlike any other. This one is all about alcoholic beverages, and if you know us, you know we often like to partake in some delicious cocktails while watching movies at home and in the cinema! We're going to review each drink and pair them with movies we think you'll love while sipping in style!
Let's break down this service a little bit more, shall we? Each box comes with everything you need to make three completely different drinks, and each box revolves around one specific liquor. All of the ingredients you need to make these drinks are provided in the box except for the booze. Why you might ask? Well, several states have restrictions about shipping alcohol, so this way, the box can be shipped anywhere in the U.S. and doesn't need a signature when delivered to your house. Each box costs $50/month, and the price goes down a little bit if you subscribe to a 3-month, 6-month, or 12-month plan. We think this is such a fantastic, interesting way to try alcoholic beverages you never thought to try on your own! Without further adieu, let's jump into this box!
Here's a picture of all the ingredients! This box was February's "Time to Afterparty" box, which the company still had available for us to review. Now, we are *huge* champagne/sparkling wine fans, so this jumped out at us immediately. We decided to go with this one because we almost always have a bottle of bubbly around the house, you know, just in case of a spontaneous brunch. We took our time to make these three drinks, and then over the next few weeks, we made them again to test how the syrups held up! And speaking of syrups, the other awesome part about Shaker & Spoon is they make all of their syrups in-house! Take a look at some of the ones they sell here.
The first drink we decided to make was The Original Sin. Here's the drink recipe:
Holy. Cow. This drink was phenomenal! This was my absolute favorite drink from the box. We were a little bit concerned when we pulled out the syrup and saw "apple-balsamic shrub" because we wondered what the hell that was! Balsamic vinegar in a syrup for a drink!? WEIRD. It's not weird at all, IT'S GENIUS. This drink tastes like a little bit of fall in the thick of summer. It's invigorating and crisp from the shrub with a little kick from the bitters, all rounded out nicely with the bubbly. Mmmmm. It was so sad when this syrup ran out! It's delish!

This drink may get you hot and bothered, so here are some movies you might want to watch while drinking The Original Sin:
  • "Original Sin" (2001), starring Angelina Jolie and Antonio Banderas (an obvious choice, sure, but it doesn't get much more sinful than this!)
  • "9 1/2 Weeks" (1986), starring Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger (that scene in the kitchen...*shivers*)
  • "Body Heat" (1981), starring William Hurt and Kathleen Turner (because nothing says spicy like Hurt and Turner!)
The second drink we got to make was the Time After Thyme cocktail. It had the following instructions:
I really enjoyed this one, and this was BigJ's favorite of the bunch. Again, we got nervous about the cucumber-thyme syrup and the celery bitters because it's got things you wouldn't normally put together in a cocktail. By God, those flavors meld together extremely well to create a fragrant, refreshing, bright, zesty, complex drink. So good. Just don't get curious and try the celery bitters without anything else because "you just want to see what bitters tastes like" on its own. Bad decision!

Here are some movies you might enjoy while sipping on your Time After Thyme beverage:
  • "The Hundred-Foot Journey" (2014), starring Helen Mirren and Manish Dayal (because sometimes you have to put a new twist on an old classic)
  • "Julie & Julia" (2009), starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams (because when you think of spices, who do you think of? Julia Child!)
  • "About Time" (2013), starring Domhnall Gleeson and Rachel McAdams (because while time is fleeting, you can enjoy this drink all movie long)
Last up is the Chinese New Year cocktail. Here's the drink recipe:
We love Chinese five-spice. We've used it in our cooking for a couple of years, ever since we saw our favorite local chef Sam the Cooking Guy use it in a chicken recipe and subsequently found out that Trader Joe's carried it for super cheap. This one seemed the most straightforward of the trio, so we assumed it'd be our favorite. Upon the first sip, BigJ and I both really liked it. After a while, however, the flavors got extremely overwhelming. The syrup overpowered everything else in the recipe. We tried this one two other times over the course of the month to see if our minds had changed, and they hadn't. It's not bad by any means, it's just a very specific flavor that you need to brace yourself for when enjoying.

Here are some of our favorite movies that are spicy, colorful, and intricate, just like the Chinese New Year drink:
  • "Hero" (2002), starring Jet Li, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Maggie Cheung (because it's one of the most gorgeous movies we've ever seen, and it highlights the beauties of China by bringing together the country into one cohesive nation)
  • "Brotherhood of the Wolf" (2001), starring Samuel Le Bihan, Mark Dacascos, and Jérémie Renier (because it's French with a little bit of an Asian influence)
  • "Brazil" (1985), starring Jonathan Pryce, Robert De Niro, and Kim Greist (because it's intricate and complex, but may be a bit of an acquired taste)
Thanks very much to Shaker & Spoon for letting us try this incredible subscription box! We loved this one and really enjoyed being taken out of our comfort zone to discover some great new flavors! Are you planning on trying this subscription box?

Please be sure to check out Shaker & Spoon all over the internet! | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

*We were sent this subscription box for an honest review. We were not further compensated for this post and all opinions are our own.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Movie Review: "War for the Planet of the Apes" (2017)

Director: Matt Reeves
Year: 2017
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes

A crazed human, known only as "The Colonel," leads his soldiers in an attempt to wipe out all remaining apes. Caesar and his fellow apes want peace, but The Colonel has no intention of letting that happen.

"War for the Planet of the Apes" is the third film in the new "Planet of the Apes" prequel series. It is directed by Matt Reeves, who directed the second film in the series, "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes."  It stars Andy Serkis, who returns in the leading role of Caesar, the leader of the apes. New to the series is Woody Harrelson, who plays the film's antagonist simply known as 'The Colonel.' This man commands a troop of rogue soldiers who are hell-bent on destroying all of the remaining apes. Humans fear they are on the verge of extinction, and they blame the apes for their situation instead of understanding it was the actions of humans themselves that led to their own downfall.

Despite the title of this film, it is not a big war picture. This is a far more dramatic, humanistic story rather than a war-time action epic. It is extremely well written, a deeply involving and engaging story with endearing characters. Andy Serkis is nothing short of brilliant in the role of Caesar, and he always has been. He brings a tremendous, heart-wrenching presence to this role, and the picture is better because of his incredibly detailed performance. It is sad Serkis doesn't get the recognition he deserves for his work, just because he primarily does motion capture performances. Award shows need to start recognizing this more modern style of performance because behind all of the little white dots and a digital overlay is a man giving one of the best performances of the year. Another notable mo-cap performance comes from Karen Konoval, who has played the orangutan named Maurice throughout the whole series. Maurice has always been the heart and soul of the ape clan, and her performance truly brings this character to life in a sensational way. Also in the film is Steve Zahn, who is superb as the newly introduced character named Bad Ape. Bad Ape offers up some lighthearted comedy in an otherwise emotionally weighty, solemn film.

The visual effects are unbelievably fantastic. They are staggering to look at, an absolutely pristine sight. Everything from the apes themselves to snowy hillsides, from a forest rainstorm to mossy trees. If we didn't know better, we could be led to believe that Reeves actually taught apes to talk and ride horses, that's how good the effects are. We have made it known throughout the years that we prefer practical effects in movies. If and when they can be done, we feel they should be used. Here, we've never once cared about the use of digital effects because they are some of the best we have ever seen, and this is no exaggeration.

"War for the Planet of the Apes" emotionally connects the audience to these characters, partially due to the realism of the visual effects combined with the aforementioned motion capture performances. We found ourselves moved by this wonderfully written story and the thematic undertones it carries. This picture is one of both brutality and hope, of combat and peace, of hatred and understanding, and we loved every harrowing second of it. If this is the end of the series, this was a stellar way to close it out. Matt Reeves and everyone involved with this project should be proud of themselves, and we hope this film gets recognized come awards season!

My Rating: 9/10
BigJ's Rating: 9/10
IMDB's Rating: ~8.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~95%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Movie Review: "Wish Upon" (2017)

Director: John R. Leonetti
Year: 2017
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

A high school girl is gifted a Chinese wishing box by her father, who found it in the trash. This mysterious box gives her seven wishes, but every wish she makes has fatal consequences.

"Wish Upon" is directed by John R. Leonetti, who is famous for unleashing the horrible movies "Annabelle," "The Butterfly Effect 2," and "Mortal Komabt: Annihilation" upon the world. It stars Joey King as Clare, an outcast high school student. Clare gets a magical Chinese wishing box from her father, played Ryan Phillippe, as an early birthday gift. Of course, her father didn't know it was a wishing box, he just thought it was a cool little trinket he found in the trash because apparently, that's his job??? This box has a little caveat: every time Clare makes one of her seven wishes, someone dies, but damn if she doesn't keep on wishin' anyway! Also in the movie are Ki Hong Lee, Shannon Purser, and Sydney Park, as well as several others.

PG-13 rated horror movies have been a huge deal ever since that rating system got put in place. In the last decade plus, however, we've seen Hollywood gravitate towards them more frequently for several reasons. PG-13 horror films are usually made for very, very cheap, they have B-to-D-list stars in them (ones who don't come with big flashy budgets), and they almost always make their money back and then some. Very few of these projects are also critical successes, like 2015's "The Visit," which cost $5 million to make and took in around $98 million worldwide. Unfortunately, this mentality also applies to terrible, awful, bottom of the barrel crap movies like 2015's "The Gallows," which only cost $2 million to make and made $42 million worldwide, as well as the first "Ouija" movie from 2014, which cost $5 million to make and went on to make a whopping, unbelievable, unnecessary $100 million worldwide. Now, we have "Wish Upon" to add to the shitpile.

This film is very reminiscent of the old short story "The Monkey's Paw," which pretty much has the same exact plot. People make wishes that come true but those wishes have dire consequences. Most people are probably familiar with this story because "The Simpsons did it" in their "Treehouse of Horror II," which adapted this short for one of its segments in 1991. In addition, many have said this and we will say it as well. All of the deaths that happen in "Wish Upon" are essentially overt, sanitized ripoffs of the ones that happen in "Final Destination." They always occur by some elaborate accident caused by some unforeseen force. The main difference is, unlike "Final Destination," which is super bloody, almost all of the deaths in "Wish Upon" occur just off screen after a quick cutaway because it has to keeps its ~*oh so necessary~* PG-13 rating. Come on, they wouldn't want their movie to actually be good anything!

The acting in this movie is horrible. Not one person puts on a good performance, even a seasoned actor like Phillippe. Honestly, this has a lot to do with the atrocious writing. Every character is written to be a complete caricature and no one is believable, but really, what did we expect from a script with lines like, "I was just trying to think of somethin' dope to say before I kissed you," and "you dad is hot sauce, like, sriracha hot sauce." Jesus jumped up Christ, was this movie written by a 13-year-old girl?

We have a hunch nothing will top "The Bye Bye Man" for the #1 worst horror movie of 2017, but "Wish Upon" comes pretty damn close. For the first 25 or so minutes, it's nothing more than an asinine, boring teenage fantasy with a couple of jump scares thrown in so it could be classified as a horror. Therein lies the biggest problem: this movie just isn't scary. In fact, it's nowhere near the realm of scary. There are only one or two gross-out moments, and beyond that, as we mentioned, all there is is an occasional, ineffective, unnecessary, and unrelatable jump scare. It's very cliche, and even includes an exposition lady who tells the audience everything they need to know about this cursed object. Is there a bigger horror trope than the mysterious exposition person? 

We tried really, really hard to forgive the sins "Wish Upon" committed early on, but after seeing no scares, no tension, no thrills, a minute amount of  blood, an overabundance of silliness, ten thousand horror movie cliches, and far too many saxophones solos in the night throw at us for 90 minutes in a completely empty theater, we just couldn't do it to ourselves anymore, and neither should you. At least we got to "Mystery Science Theater 3000" the hell out of this movie in our own "private screening," which was the only thing keeping us in the cinema.

My Rating: 2/10
BigJ's Rating: 2/10
IMDB's Rating: 4.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 23%
Do we recommend this movie: AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE!!!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Movie Review: "Stuck In Love" (2012)

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Movie"Stuck in Love"
Director: Josh Boone
Year: 2012
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 37 minutes

A year in the life of an acclaimed writer named Bill, his ex-wife Erica, and their kids Samantha and Rusty, showing their struggles with love and relationships. 

Alternate title: "Rich White People Problems: The Movie"!

"Stuck in Love" tells the story of a divorced couple and their kids. Greg Kinnear plays Bill, who is a divorcee who can't get over his divorce. His ex-wife Erica, played by Jennifer Connelly, cheated on him, divorced him, and is now remarried, but Bill still has hope she will eventually come back to him. Because of their divorce and her affair, their daughter Samantha, played by Lily Collins, hates her mother and won't even speak to her. This has also led Samantha to be jaded about love, so she leads a very promiscuous lifestyle, sleeping with many different random guys without a moment's hesitation in order to avoid real relationships at all cost. Her brother Rusty, played by Nat Wolff, is very much the opposite and is much more of a romantic. He only has eyes for one girl in particular, a popular girl from his school named Kate, played by Liana Liberato, though Kate has a boyfriend and a bad cocaine habit. Bill, meanwhile, is a successful, well-renowned writer. He pays his children to write in their journals so they can become writers just like him, and now, Samantha has just had her first book published, though it's not the book Bill wanted to her to write. Bill spends his days having sex with the married woman who jogs by his house every day, a woman named Kate, played by Kristen Bell. Bill also spends his nights spying on his ex-wife and her new husband from outside their windows. What a clusterfuck of a family.

Throughout "Stuck in Love," it seems like writer/director Josh Boone actually wants the audience to root for Bill and Erica to get back together, though we would rather see Bill move on with his life because his desperation reeks from a mile away. This movie gives the message that it's okay to keep trying and trying and trying, no matter how many times you've been rejected and discarded like trash. Is that a good message? We certainly don't think so. Instead of taking the opportunity to craft an insightful piece about moving on after infidelity for both a father and his children, the film is a rather slow, formulaic, unrelatable mess. The script goes from a manic high to a depressing low in one fell swoop, making most of the characters seem like they are on drugs rather than grieving from their inner pain and angst. Though Kinnear and Connelly give good performances, it's hard to get past its cliche, overly dramatic feel in order for us to find a bigger, more meaningful message. In the end, it's really a tale about a bunch of rich white people whining about their problems. Take a Xanax already, people, we know you're already addicted to them.

My Rating: 4.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 4/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 59%
Do we recommend this movie: No.