Friday, March 23, 2018

Movie Review: "Tomb Raider" (2018)

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Movie"Tomb Raider"
Director: Roar Uthaug
Year: 2018
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hours, 51 minutes

Lara Croft has chosen to live a modest life despite being the heiress to an immense fortune. After receiving some new information, she goes on an adventure in search of her missing father, who vanished seven years earlier.

Movies based on video games have a ghastly reputation. We'd be hard-pressed to find more than one example that appeals to a general audience beyond the niche of hardcore gamers predisposed to like the final product. Will the new "Tomb Raider" film be any different? Let's see!

This film is directed by Roar Uthaug, a Norwegian director who has helmed the action films "Flukt" ("Escape") and "Bølgen" (aka "The Wave") in his home country. It is written by first-time screenwriter Geneva Robertson-Dworet, as well as Alastair Siddon (writer of the Michael Fassbender-led independent film "Trespass Against Us") and Evan Daugherty (writer of "Snow White and the Huntsman," "Divergent," and the Michael Bay-produced "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles"). It stars Academy Award winner Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft and tells the origin story of this iconic video game heroine. Lara has spent the entirety of her adulthood living a modest lifestyle as she tries to make her own way in the world. She works as a bicycle courier and spends most of her free time training at a local MMA gym. Despite her simple lifestyle choices, she is actually the heiress to a massive fortune. Her father Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West) vanished seven years ago and is now presumed dead. Lara will receive his fortune if she signs the paperwork admitting that he is no longer living. Just as she's finally going to admit he's gone, Lara discovers a new piece of information that may lead her to the last known location of her father. Instead of accepting her inheritance, she scrounges up what little money she has and sets out on an adventure in search of her missing father.

We've always imagined "Tomb Raider" would be one of the easier materials to adapt from video game to feature film. It has been nearly two decades since either of us has played "Tomb Raider," game, but if we remember correctly, it's a simple adventure game about finding artifacts and unraveling mysteries with an occasional shootout/action scene. It sort of sounds like a modern-day Indiana Jones if Indiana Jones were a wealthy British woman. These games were adapted previously into the movies "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" and its sequel "Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life," both of which starred Angelina Jolie. These movies are extremely goofy and super over-the-top in their execution, dialogue, and storylines. In this take on the material, director Roar Uthaug and his team of writers take a more grounded approach to the franchise and slowly build Croft and her backstory while trying to develop her into a layered character who feels a little more human. Though there is a lot of talk of myths and legends, they do their best to keep the themes grounded in science and reality. This new version of "Tomb Raider" still ventures into over-the-top territory when it comes to its action sequences, which are still video game-esque but look much more polished than the ones seen in the 2001 and 2003 films. Lara often performs larger than life feats and survives deadly situations relatively unscathed, though she is not entirely uninjured or unmuddied, which we appreciate for the sake of believability.

This movie had a lot of built-in potential. There are glimmers of what could have been something good, not just "video game good," mind you, but actually "fun adventure movie good." Alicia Vikander is an Oscar-winning actress, so she can pretty much act well in anything. She does a fine job with what she's given, but what she's given ain't great. The biggest problem with the story is that it drags way too much and is needless over-dramatic. There are times when we were flat out bored with what was going on in the story. We also don't feel like the relationship between Lara and her father is developed enough for us to care if she found him or not. The main evil organization, Trinity, still remains mostly a mystery when the credits roll, and its intended purpose and interests are left purposefully vague in the hopes that this film would make enough money to get a sequel. We hate that shit. Make a movie, explain important things, and don't assume in this day and age you're going to automatically get a sequel if you make even a little bit of money (we're looking at YOU, Dark Universe). The main sub-boss villain, Mathias Vogel (Walter Goggins), is developed just enough where we can understand his motivations for doing the things he does. He is even a little sympathetic at times, though he is clearly off his rocker. Unfortunately, Goggins doesn't get much to do here, which is a shame because he has been such a menacing presence elsewhere.

In the end, "Tomb Raider" does have a couple moments of fun and excitement. It flirts with the idea that it could have been better than it is. Unfortunately, a cringe-worthy script, unanswered questions, and a mundane premise we've seen dozens of times before makes this movie pretty dang dull and dirivitive. The narrative isn't quite strong enough to move it over the finish line and into "good" territory.

My Rating: 4/10
BigJ's Rating: 5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~6.9/10
RT Rating: ~50%
Do we recommend this movie: Meh.

Please be sure to check out Lolo Loves Films all over the internet!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Movie Review: "Love, Simon" (2018)

Director: Greg Berlanti
Year: 2018
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hours, 49 minutes

A closeted gay teenager who leads a simple life but is struggling with coming out connects with another gay teen online who grapples with the exact same issue.

Simon has a secret. (Image Source)
High school is hard enough as it is, but when you have a secret, and that secret is that you're gay, we can imagine it would be infinitely more difficult, especially if you're ever faced with people who aren't accepting. "Love, Simon" is directed by Greg Berlanti, who really doesn't direct movies all that often. He directed "Life as We Know It" back in 2008, and before that, "The Broken Hearts Club." The screenplay is written by Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker, who are both writers on the television drama "This is Us." It is based on the book "Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda" by Becky Albertalli. It stars Nick Robinson as the titular Simon, who describes himself as a normal high school senior. He has lots of friends (Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, and George Lendeborg Jr.) and they do regular ol' high school things like drinking way too much coffee and binging on carbs at the Waffle House. Simon even likes his parents (Josh Duhamel and Jennifer Garner) and his little sister Nora (Talithia Eliane Bateman), who is an aspiring chef. There's just one thing. Simon has a huge ass secret: he is gay, nobody knows it, and he's not out. He's afraid to tell the people he loves about his secret because he doesn't want anything in his life to change.
Simon and his friends, sans coffee and carbs. (Image Source)
We can see a lot of people criticizing "Love, Simon" for being a little too John Hughes in its execution. The glossy upper-class suburban school with teachers who are unlike any you would encounter in real life. It's a bit overly sentimental and maybe even a little formulaic. Lucky for us, we can deal with sentimental and we love John Hughes movies. Beyond the glossiness, this teen romantic comedy is also a coming-of-age story that really hits at the spirit of its subject. It's one of the best coming-of-age stories we have seen in recent years.
It's true, you CAN like your family! (Image Source)
Through Greg Berlanti's direction and Nick Robinson's expert, mature, layered performance, we empathize with what Simon is going through and see how difficult it is for him to hide who he really is out of fear of change, judgment, or both. We feel for Simon and his struggle even though we have never had to experience something like this ourselves. Nick Robinson continues to impress us with his acting and he always offers such nuance in the characters he plays. We have no doubt he will continue to do amazing things in his career. We fell in love with Simon, as well as his friends, thanks to a wonderful supporting cast as well. Though Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel are limited to an occasional quip or a moment of charm, both of these actors get a monumental, powerhouse moment to shine that will bring the waterworks and make you wonder who's cutting onions in the back row. There are actually many instances that certainly brought tears to our eyes.
We sat through "Love, Simon" completely enthralled by its joy and humor. We were touched by its heart. We remembered what it felt like to fall in love. This is a movie that should be seen by people everywhere. Please don't let this movie slip by you. Please give it a chance.

My Rating: 8.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 8.5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~8.0/10
RT Rating: 91%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

Please be sure to check out Lolo Loves Films all over the internet!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Movie Review: "The Hurricane Heist" (2018)

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Director: Rob Cohen
Year: 2018
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hours, 43 minutes

A group of thieves robs a Federal Reserve facility in Gulfport, Alabama during a category five hurricane, and only a treasury agent, meteorologist, and a repairman can stop them.

We've got a GREAT idea! Let's rob a Federal Reserve facility during a hurricane! It's the perfect plan! There is absolutely no variable within this that situation that could possibly cause a problem in our master scheme!

"The Hurricane Heist" is directed by Rob Cohen, whose more recent directorial efforts have been films like "Stealth," "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor," and atrocious "The Boy Next Door." It has a story written by the guys who brought us "Drop Dead Fred," including Scott Windhauser, who wrote "Cops and Robbers," and Jeff Dixon, whose biggest writing credit is "Zombies!" for Xbox Fitness. A force five hurricane is about to crash into the small town of Gulfport, Alabama, which just so happens to be the location of the most poorly protected Federal Reserve facility in the world. A group of well-trained and highly organized thieves plans to rob it during the hurricane. The only people who can stop them are Federal Treasury Agent Casey (Maggie Grace), a meteorologist named Will (Toby Kebbell), and his brother and repairman Breeze (Ryan Kwanten).

This is the second film we've seen in 2018 about a group of criminals who intend to rob a Federal Reserve bank. The first was "Den of Thieves," a crime thriller heist film that was much better than we expected it to be. Now, it's time for "The Hurricane Heist," the dumbed-downed, more action-based natural disaster heist movie no one asked for but we sure as shit got anyway. It's probably not a good sign when a script is a dumbed-down version being compared to a Gerard Butler movie. As we said above, this is the most unbelievably insecure Federal Reserve in existence. It seriously only has a dozen employees at most, and only a handful of these employees are security guards. They allow all kinds of outside contractors in and out of the building and not one of them appears to get a security check. This is honestly the least of our complaints, but it's a good start.

"The Hurricane Heist" knows it's a completely stupid, mindless, ridiculous action film because idiotic movies are director Rob Cohen's specialty. You know what you're in for when a gigantic skull appears within the clouds of a storm like it's a goddamn "Harry Potter" movie. The fact that the heisters' plan requires a hurricane in the first place is beyond bonkers. The plan will only work if there's a hurricane. Just let that notion truly sink in for a second. Toby Kebbell's Will frequently talks to the hurricane as if it were a real person. Will has a dedicated drawer in his humongous armored truck tank for his daily peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Characters engage in a shootout during a category five hurricane with gale force winds and shoot guns at trucks as every single bullet hits the said truck with precision-point accuracy. People tether themselves to objects and get sucked out of rooftops, dangling mid-air for several seconds and then peacefully landing without a scratch. Characters stop off at random houses to leave their young children IN THE MIDDLE OF A HURRICANE in order to tend to their trucks and make sure they are safe on the road. It's so goddamn dumb, and it makes no effort to hide this fact. Still, we weren't into it like we were with 2017's "Geostorm." DUTCHBOY OR BUST.

"The Hurricane Heist" is the perfect storm (GET IT?!!) of bad movies. The acting is bad, the accents are worse, and the story is downright terrible and riddled with plot holes. There are a couple of action scenes that are decent at best, though most of them will bring unintentional laughs rather than intrigue or excitement. We can absolutely see this being a cult classic and/or guilty pleasure movie for some people due to its wretchedness, but we couldn't even get to that point. There's no real need to see this movie in theaters (especially since the CGI is awful and will add little to no enjoyment on any type of screen or device), but judging by its box office totals thus far, most of you have already passed on it or probably don't even know it exists.

My Rating: 3/10
BigJ's Rating: 2.5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~4.8/10
RT Rating: ~43%
Do we recommend this movie: AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE!!!

Please be sure to check out Lolo Loves Films all over the internet!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Movie Review: "Gringo" (2018)

Director: Nash Edgerton
Year: 2018
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hours, 51 minutes

A middle-management employee of a pharmaceutical company who is in the midst of a personal crisis gets caught in the middle of a conflict between his bosses and the Mexican drug cartel over the formula for a marijuana pill.

Marijuana gummy bears, pot brownies, cannabis candies, dope vape fluid, and herb soft drinks (among other things) already exist in the world, so we can't possibly imagine that the formula for a weed pill would be all that valuable. "Gringo" is directed by Nash Edgerton, who has mostly directed short films and music videos up to this point. The screenplay was written by Anthony Tambakis, who wrote the excellent film "Warrior" and the not-so-excellent movie "Jane Got a Gun." It is co-written by Matthew Stone, no, not the co-creator of "South Park," but the writer of "Big Trouble," "Man of the House," and "Soul Men." It stars David Oyelowo as human doormat Harold Soyinka, who has recently learned that he is about to be bankrupt and will likely lose his job due to an upcoming merger with his firm. Harold has also just discovered his wife has been unfaithful. He works for a pharmaceutical company that has developed a weed pill called Cannabax. He and his bosses Richard (Joel Edgerton) and Elaine (Charlize Theron) are heading down to Mexico to check up on the operation. Unbeknownst to Harold, Richard and Elaine have been supplying the Mexican cartel with marijuana. When they try to cut the cartel off and Harold disappears, they start to worry that their upcoming merger is in serious jeopardy.

"Gringo" is an all over the place action crime dark comedy. The marketing for this movie played up the crazy comedy misadventures of marijuana angle, but unfortunately, the film isn't all that funny. This is not to say it is entirely devoid of humor because every so often, an occasional joke lands properly. We laughed a couple of times here and there, but it's not side-splittingly hilarious like we hoped it would be. The biggest problem with "Gringo" has to do with the characters, particularly Richard and Elaine, who are wholly unlikable in every manner of speaking. Nothing they do comes across as darkly humorous and their actions are only ever perceived as crass and full of dickishness. The story has a lot of threads and they don't exactly come together all that well. There is a storyline for Richard and Elaine, one for Harold and his problems, one for the ongoing threat from the cartel, one for a storyline featuring a random couple named Sunny and Miles (Amanda Seyfried and Harry Treadway) who are constantly running into Harold in Mexico, and lastly, the thread about a mercenary name Mitch (Sharlto Copley). It never feels like these stories are fully in sync. In fact, half of these plots feel like they are in a different movie entirely. One or two of these portions could have easily been cut out and the movie would have been a lot more clear and a lot more concise. Because of these extra threads, "Gringo" is just way too long and moves very slowly to its obvious conclusion. Luckily, we do like David Oyelowo even though he plays a total pushover, and Sharlto Copley is always good in everything when he gets to play a to-type oddball character. Honestly, this movie would have been a lot more successful if Copely and Oyelowo were the only two characters prominently featured.

While there are a couple of fun, entertaining moments of action-packed craziness, most of the time, the story being told in "Gringo" drags on and on with no end in sight. It feels aimlessly zany, and what we're left with when the dust settles is a mixed bag that winds up a bit more bad than good, plus two or three too many animal metaphors.

My Rating: 4/10
BigJ's Rating: 4.5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~6.0/10
RT Rating: ~40%
Do we recommend this movie: No.

Please be sure to check out Lolo Loves Films all over the internet!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Movie Review: "Thoroughbreds" (2018)

Director: Cory Finley
Year: 2018
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hours, 32 minutes

An affluent teen named Lily and her friend Amanda, who lacks the capacity to feel emotions, hatch a plan to murder Lily's stepfather.

"Fucking evil kids!"

While watching "Thoroughbreds," a quote from "Titanic" popped into our heads: "I know what you're thinking, 'poor little rich girl, what does she know about misery?'" This quote applies to one of the characters in this film just as much as it applied to Rose in 1997. "Thoroughbreds" serves as the writing and directing debut of Cory Finley. It stars Olivia Cooke as Amanda, a teenager who seems to lack the capacity to feel any and all emotions. She tends to look at things in a cold, calculated, logical manner and never factors how her actions will make herself or other people feel. Joining Cooke is Anya Taylor-Joy as Lily. Lily was Amanda's friend when they were kids, but has distanced herself from her after an incident which made Amanda a bit of a social pariah. Lily has recently started hanging out with Amanda again after initially being paid to do so by Amanda's mother. Through conversations with Amanda, Lily reveals her big problem. Lily can feel emotions and has a strong hatred towards her stepfather Mark (Paul Sparks). Amanda, casually and in the coldest, most unfeeling way possible, suggests that the only logical solution would be to murder him. Sounds like trouble.

This is a slow-burning dramatic thriller, perhaps a little too slow. Much of the story focuses on the relationship between Lily and Amanda, two teenagers with vastly different problems. Amanda feels too little and Lily feels way too much, though not in the most constructive way and not always about the right people. This film shows how things like affluence can lead to a lack of empathy for others. Lily has grown up here entire life coddled in every way imaginable. She leaves all of her problems, no matter how small, for other people to take care of and has never had to deal with any repercussions of her actions.

There are a lot of interesting visuals here, as well as many well framed, striking camera shots. We have no doubt director Cory Finley will do great things throughout his career. Also, the two leads do an excellent job in their respective parts. Olivia Cooke remains stoic as her role requires and Taylor-Joy gets to be a bit more nuanced and actually gets to show some emotion. This film also contains the final on-screen performance of Anton Yelchin, who tragically passed away in 2016. Even though he plays a relatively small part, he still gives an exceptional performance as the skeezy drug dealer with big dreams in mind for his future. Seeing Yelchin on the big screen one last time made us really sad knowing his talents will not be around any longer.

"Thoroughbreds" takes its time to get to its ultimate destination and builds slowly to its climax. This may be a problem for some viewers because slow pacing has a tendency to make a story feel boring at times. For us, there is enough here to keep us interested, though we will admit we were not fully riveted every single second of its runtime. This kind of pacing makes it feel longer than it is, though it's not really that long in the first place. There is a good atmosphere in the movie, but one thing it lacks is palatable tension. Like one of the main characters, it is missing some emotional oomph. Still, we think this movie is worth seeking out due to its wonderful direction and acting.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: ~7.3/10
RT Rating: ~83%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Movie Review: "A Wrinkle in Time" (2018)

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Director: Ava DuVernay
Year: 2018
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hours, 49 minutes

A young girl, her friend, and her little brother travel with three universal entities across time and space to find her father, who is lost somewhere in the universe.

We have been looking forward to "A Wrinkle in Time" for quite a while now. Sometimes, anticipation is a good thing, and other times, that can only lead to disappointment. This film is directed by the wonderful Ava DuVernay, who is best known for directing "Selma" and the Oscar-nominated documentary "13th." It is written by Jennifer Lee and Jeff Stockwell and is adapted from the 1962 novel of the same name by Madeleine L'Engle. It stars Storm Reid as a young teenager named Meg Murry. Her father (Chris Pine) has been missing for four years. He was working on a theory that would allow someone to travel across space and through time using only their mind. He vanished when using his discovery for the first time, heading to a faraway place with no hope of ever returning. It turns out, Mr. Murry is in trouble and is lost in the universe. Now, three universal entities, Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling), Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), and Mrs. Which (Opera Winfrey) have come to look for Meg and her genius brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) and their friend Calvin (Levi Miller) to help them go on an adventure to find Mr. Murry. Also in the film is Gugu M'batha-Raw, though she really doesn't get much to do and is pretty much relegated to two scenes at the beginning and end.

"A Wrinkle in Time" is a classic story, one BigJ grew up reading. I, on the other hand, was not super familiar with the story but sure loved the trailers for this film. It is a tale that combines science and fantasy and tries to show the importance of both. It also attempts to explore the importance and value of love as well. The message of the movie is very focused on the 'importance of love' aspect. It details how toxic hate and anger can be, and we're all for spreading this well-intentioned message to kids because it's the absolute truth and needs to be said more often. The visuals are beautiful, especially the costume designs of the three Mrs. They are bright, colorful, glittery, fantastical, and vibrant, just like the movie itself. That being said, the constant continuation of this bold color palette sacrifices both atmosphere and mood because it feels very one-note when it comes to its visual tone and has little variation from place to place. Even the scenes in the dark world of Camazotz feel this way.

It's clear to us that director Ava DuVernay had a lot of dazzling effects and visual intricacies that she wanted to include here, but she forfeited a lot in the way of storytelling to get her ultimate final product. Flashy make-up and interesting visuals don't make a movie great, unfortunately. The narrative is a problem as there is no clear thread from beginning to end. It's borderline incoherent at times. Most of the dialogue is expository and explains who or what things are and where they go and how they got there. Some scenes feel like they don't even belong in the first place. There are a couple big action moments that feel superfluous and serve little purpose other than adding a big action sequence because there needed to be more pomp and circumstance. Finally, as everything was wrapping up, we couldn't help but feel underwhelmed by its ending. It feels unearned. Again, for a story about the importance and value of love and self-love, it doesn't have the emotional impact that we hoped for. It's actually amazing how a movie this splashy and vivid with such a pervasive message about love can feel so emotionally flat.

We feel "A Wrinkle in Time" had all the ingredients to be something special and it just didn't come together. We were very disappointed with the final product.

My Rating: 4/10
BigJ's Rating: 4/10
IMDB's Rating: ~4.2/10
RT Rating: ~40%
Do we recommend this movie: No.

Please be sure to check out Lolo Loves Films all over the internet!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Movie Review: "Jesus Christ Superstar" (1973)

Director: Norman Jewison
Year: 1973
Rating: G
Running Time: 1 hour, 48 minutes

A rock opera re-telling of the final days of Jesus Christ. 

What better way to tell the story of Jesus Christ than through a surreal rock opera that is sung by hippies? "Jesus Christ Superstar" is directed by Norman Jewison, who helmed films like "In the Heat of the Night," "Fiddler on the Roof," and "Moonstruck." Jewison also helped write the screenplay along with Melvyn Bragg. It is, of course, a film adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber stage musical of the same name. The film mainly focuses on the relationship between Jesus Christ (Ted Neely) and Judas Iscariot (Carl Anderson) as Judas becomes increasingly more disillusioned with the way Jesus is handling himself and his followers. Judas is worried Jesus being viewed as a deity rather than a simple man with a message will bring trouble and death to him and his associates. The whole story is told to a blaring 70's rock soundtrack as every word in the entire production is sung.

We aren't religious people, but we can still appreciate a story like "Jesus Christ Superstar." It is shot in Israel but has a very surreal nature to it. Seeing modern objects like buses, tanks, and machine guns pop up in the story of Jesus is pretty wild. These images are obviously not meant to be taken literally. They are included as metaphors for man's propensity towards war and violence, things that are in a direct clash to the messages Jesus taught as a representative of peace and love. The play was released as America was becoming wary of the war in Vietnam, so it makes sense.

We really enjoyed this movie. Oddly enough, our favorite character is not Jesus, but Judas. Carl Anderson has an incredible voice and does a fantastic job portraying this conflicted character. That being said, Ted Neely is still very good in his own right as the titular character. We do like most of the music in this film, even though it is performed like an actual opera with constant singing rather than a traditional musical that switches between normal dialogue and the occasional song. Still, it never becomes tedious or monotonous in our opinion. There is enough variation in the music to differentiate the singing numbers and the tone that is trying to be portrayed. Many moments in "Jesus Christ Superstar" stand out to us as being memorable, but only one shines brightly above the rest. We are of course referring to Herod's musical number. It is so humorous and tonally different from the rest of the material that it makes it stand out in our minds. Josh Mostel does a splendid job in this small but extremely interesting part.

In the end, we think "Jesus Christ Superstar" is a good watch, even for those who aren't religious. We honestly had a great time watching it. It makes such stuffy material feel fresh, new, and a little more easily digestible when seen through a modern lens.

My Rating: 7.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.3/10
RT Rating: 56%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

Please be sure to check out Lolo Loves Films all over the internet!