Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Movie Review: "The Hero" (2017)

Director: Brett Haley
Year: 2017
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 33 minutes

An aging actor who was just diagnosed with cancer tries to make amends with his daughter for not being there much of her life.
"You can't help who you like." (Image Source)
A movie about an aging actor with a golden voice and a penchant for acting in westerns? How could Sam Elliot ever get a feel for a character so far outside his comfort zone? Can you possibly imagine Sam Elliott ever playing a cowboy?
All kidding aside, director Brett Haley's "The Hero" does manage to capture what it's like to be an aging actor in Hollywood, struggling to find a purpose now that they have fallen out of favor with the public. As you may have guessed, the movie stars Sam Elliot as Lee Hayden, a once prominent actor who did a lot of westerns in the 70's and 80's, but is now stuck doing commercial voiceover work for BBQ sauce. Lee has just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, which suddenly makes him reflect on his life and makes him want to make amends, mainly to his daughter, who he has alienated over the years. Meanwhile, Lee begins a fling with a comedian named Charlotte (Laura Prepon), who is a good 35 years or so younger than him, though what their relationship actually is neither is willing to define.
"Movies are other people's dreams." (Image Source)
When we sat down and watched "The Hero," we couldn't help but feel that the film shared a lot of similarities with the film Darren Aronofsky's "The Wrestler." Both films are about aging performers stuck doing lesser versions of what they use to do, both have characters that might die, and both have estranged daughters who they weren't there for in their younger days. This is a pretty by-the-numbers, formulaic story. It isn't terribly well paced, and much of the movie seems to drag on and on at times. Luckily, it isn't very lengthy. The one thing that helps elevate "The Hero" is Sam Elliott, who gives a tremendous performance. We would call it one of the best of his career. We wish we had seen some awards consideration for him last year because he's that good. We also liked Nick Offerman's performance as Lee's friend and pot dealer, Jeremy. Offerman adds a generous amount of comedy, as well as some much-needed levity to an otherwise reflective, introspective movie.
"I did one film that I'm proud of. That was 40 years ago. Since then, I wouldn't say I've been achieving." (Image Source)
As good as Sam Elliott's performance is, "The Hero" lacks the emotional punch we were looking for from such a weighty story (apart from one or two moments). Though it is decent overall, it doesn't really do much to rise above or separate itself from the many other movies just like it.

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 6/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 78%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Movie Review: "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" (2018)

Director: Morgan Neville
Year: 2018
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 34 minutes

A look at the career and life philosophy of Fred Rogers.
"Television has the chance of making a real community out of the whole country." (Image Source)
The world could certainly use a man like Fred Rogers right about now. "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" is a documentary directed by Morgan Neville, who is best known for his Oscar-winning documentary "20 Feet from Stardom." This film chronicles the career of ordained minister and children's entertainer Fred Rogers, better known as Mister Rogers. He was the creator and host of the educational television show "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," which aired for 31 seasons between 1968 and 2001. The life of Mister Rogers is told through interviews with family members, co-workers, historians, and through archival footage of Fred himself, as well as clips from episodes from his long-running show.
"Sometimes we need to struggle with the tragedy of life to understand the gravity of love." (Image Source)
Fred Rogers lived his life based on one philosophy: love. He believed everything in life stems from "love or the lack of it." This is a message that has been missing from our culture for the last couple of decades. In all honesty, it has probably been lost since Mister Rogers went off the air. Morgan Neville has created an uplifting, emotional documentary that has the ability to restore your faith in humanity if you only heed Rogers' words. Is it really that hard to be neighborly to someone in need, to be a decent human being?? This film is an ode to a man who touched the lives of so many people, who taught kids that they are special and that their lives have inherent value, even if they think they are ordinary.

Fred Rogers lived a life without much controversy. One may think that without much dirt, "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" would be utterly tedious and uninteresting. In truth, it is inspiring, simple, but truly inspiring. We watch Rogers push for social change and acceptance by integrating ideas and issues that were important to him into his show, making them palatable for children but never shying away from telling it like it was. He didn't hesitate to discuss tough subjects and understood that kids have to deal with things like death and divorce just as much as adults do. He "put it to children so they would understand" the gravity of terrible situations.

The most shocking thing about this documentary is that despite all the good he did in his life, and despite being a minister and lifelong Republican, Fox News still had pundits on their network that called him "evil" for teaching kids the importance of self-worth. Sound clips are played of talking heads blaming Rogers for the downfall of our youth, exclaiming that it was his push to get kids to value and love themselves that somehow contributed to our "participation trophy" culture. We cannot fathom the thought process that would cause someone to call Mister Rogers, of all people, "an evil, evil man." He was an exceptional man, one of the greatest, someone who inspired generations of kids not to be ashamed of who they are, to stand up for what's right, to be compassionate and good-hearted people, to love others justly, and to be good neighbors.
"It's not all clowns and balloons." (Image Source)
There was not a dry eye in our sold-out auditorium at the end of "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" People clapped during and after the film. Patrons walked out smiling and stood together to talk about it in the lobby. For a brief 94 minutes, it brought us closers together as human beings. It caused us to feel hope when we have so often felt hopeless. It made us feel good when we have so often felt bad. It made us think that if genuine, loving people in the world like Fred Rogers existed then, maybe there are people like him out there now. If there are, CAN THEY PLEASE STAND UP??? If you are looking for a movie to inspire hope in what seems like a hopeless time, this is it. This is mandatory viewing for every single person in the world, and at the very least, every single person in this country, at this moment in time, right now.

My Rating: 9/10
BigJ's Rating: 8.5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~8.7/10
RT Rating: 99%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!

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

Monday, June 18, 2018

Movie Review: "Bad Boys" (1995)

Director: Michael Bay
Year: 1995
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 59 minutes

Narcotics cops Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett are tasked with protecting a murder witness who can link the perpetrator to the crime they are investigating.
"My shit always works sometimes!" (Image Source)
This is it, the movie that started it all. "Bad Boys" is the feature film debut of director Michael Bay, who would go on to direct films like "Pearl Harbor," "Armageddon" and almost a half dozen "Transformers" movies. Bay mostly made music videos before directing this movie. The film stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence as narcotics cops Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett. A police evidence storage facility is broken into, and millions of dollars in heroin gets stolen. Internal Affairs believes it might be an inside job. As pressure mounts from higher-ups in the department, Lowrey and Burnett are tasked with finding the drugs, though little evidence was left by the perpetrators. The two cops catch a break when a woman witnesses a murder that can be linked to the drug thieves. Now, Mike and Marcus must keep her alive long enough for them to make an arrest and have her testify.
" I don't know why you're going home to your wife. You got shot in the leg, your dick probably don't even work." (Image Source)
Will Smith and Martin Lawrence were both huge stars in the mid 90's. Both men had television shows and were extremely hot commodities. Leave it to Michael Bay to make these two comedic stars completely uninteresting and bland in "Bad Boys." As usual, both actors play characters who act just like themselves and stick to their tried and true schtick. Smith as Lowrey gets to be the playboy trust fund kid who has a way with the ladies and only works as a cop because he enjoys it. Lawrence as Burnett gets to be the sex-starved married trope of a man who lives paycheck to paycheck, so it's safe to say it's not a stretch for either of them. A scenario is set up where the two are forced to switch places and pretend to be the other person, which is supposed to bring some "Freaky Friday"-style laughs, though we never really found ourselves so much as chuckling. Both of these actors are very capable of offering funny, charming performances, but everything in this film is just so flat, generic, and overloaded with cliches that their stars don't get the chance to shine. There are two major female parts in the movie, played by Téa Leoni and Theresa Randle, but their only purpose seems to be to make the male characters lives more difficult or to be damsels in need of rescue.

The "Bad Boys" narrative is all over the place, and it hardly makes a lick of sense. The criminals do completely illogical things like kidnapping people they don't have to kidnap, blabbing their plans to characters they don't have to tell, killing people when they don't need to kill, and not killing the people they should kill the most. The story gets progressively worse and more irritating the longer it goes on.
"You know you drive almost slow enough to drive Miss Daisy." (Image Source)
"Bad Boys" proves Michael Bay hasn't changed much over the years. Any movie he makes that is actually enjoyable is more because of dumb luck rather than purposeful, genuine skill. The only talent Bay has consistently shown is an ability to try to pack his films with actions scenes, over-the-top explosions, and bro humor. Somehow, he continually manages to make all of this damn boring. We have to wonder if Bay was born with this ability or if he took classes on how to make messes. This film provided a rocky start for his career, and though some people really enjoy it, we found it to be not much better than mediocre.

My Rating: 4.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 4.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.8/10
RT Rating: 42%
Do we recommend this movie: No.

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

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Feature Film Face-Off: "Overboard" (1987) vs. "Overboard" (2018)

Today, we are here with the second installment in our series, FEATURE FILM FACE-OFF! In this series, we take two movies and pit them against each other in a battle for the ages! We break down each film and see which one will be the winner.

Back in 1987, Garry Marshall directed a romantic comedy called "Overboard" starring Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, two huge actors of the 80's. It received middle-of-the-road reviews and a respectable box office, though we wouldn't call it a classic. In May 2018, a remake of the original was released. It is directed by Rob Greenberg, it stars Eugenio Derbez and Anna Faris, and it has the exact same narrative but with a gender reversal. It's easy to say 'the original is always better,' but we've found that isn't always the case. Today, we thought we would compare these two films to see which version is better and why.

"Overboard" (1987)

*ACTING/CHARACTERS*
+ Goldie Hawn was a comedic genius in the 80's, and she is at her best here.

+ Kurt Russell was probably the most charismatic man in Hollywood at the time, so it helps make his actions seem less problematic.

+ Hawn plays a wonderful 'rich snob type' who we start out hating but grow to find endearing.

+ Russell's character Dean Profitt is the epitome of the 80's blue-collar worker standing up to the bougie yuppie; this was a very timely topic.

- There is a good supporting cast that offers a couple of laughs, but they are vastly overshadowed by Hawn and Russell.

*NARRATIVE*
+ We understand where the characters started, as well as their ultimate goal in their situation. We see the progression of each character (e.g. Annie turns from stuck-up bitch into a more empathetic person).

+ We feel a bit sorry for Annie/Joanna when she is left in the hospital by her husband so he can use her money to have affairs with younger models.

- The story is a formulaic rom-com, following the typical "boy meets girl, they hate each other, the boy is forced to spend time with the girl, they get to know each other, they fall in love, last-minute chase to save the relationship" equation.

*DIRECTING/EDITING*
+ Though the directing is nothing spectacular, the film is well paced.

+ Marshall skirts the social taboos by making the things Dean does feel less creepy (e.g. Dean has Annie sleep on the couch).

+ The film is very even from start to finish.

*MISCELLANEOUS*
+ Hawn and Russell have great chemistry together and it really shines through on-screen.

+ There are a lot of laughs here, and we found the movie to be extremely entertaining as a whole.
"Overboard" (2018)

*ACTING/CHARACTERS*
- Anna Faris is wasted here. Though she plays the single mom role pretty well, she doesn't get anything overly funny to do.

+ Eugenio Derbez is very charming and very funny as playboy man-child Leo.

- As a character, Kate is a bit bland. We don't empathize with her situation as much as we should.

- Unfortunately, Leo is a little too charming. We are supposed to hate his character for being an insufferable asshole, but we felt like we never really did, which makes his redemption seem too easy.

- Because of this charisma, he completely overshadows Anna Faris at every turn.

+ The supporting cast is much better in this version and offer up some of the biggest laughs, so much so that they outshine the leads at times.

*NARRATIVE*
- Another formulaic romantic comedy that follows the original each step of the way. The only difference is the gender flip.

- It plays out the same "boy meets girl, they hate each other, the boy is forced to spend time with the girl, they get to know each other, they fall in love, followed by a last-minute chase to save the relationship" equation.

+ In this version, Leonardo's sister is the one who abandons him in the hospital as a power play to inherit the company she is clearly much more qualified to run.

+ Her power play is not malicious, she just holds resentment towards Leonardo. She gets passed over because she is a woman, despite being more qualified for the job, so we totally understand her anger.

*DIRECTING/EDITING*
- The direction isn't all that notable.

- The film does feel a little long at times and could have been tightened up.

- It is a bit uneven as it takes time to get going.

*MISCELLANEOUS*
+ The Spanish language music in the soundtrack is excellent and poppy, adding some much-needed fun to a few major scenes, making them that much more enjoyable.

+ This movie wound up being much funnier than expected.

- Derbez and Faris don't have strong chemistry together. Though it isn't the worst on-screen couple we've ever seen, it pales in comparison to Hawn and Russell.
This was not the complete runaway that we were expecting. There is a lot to like about the newer version of "Overboard," mainly Eugenio Derbez and the supporting cast. That being said, Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell's chemistry and acting are much stronger and clearly overshadows the chemistry and acting in the new version. The film is carried almost entirely by Eugenio Derbez and the supporting cast while Anna Faris is wasted. Because of these factors, the original has the advantage over the remake.

WINNER"OVERBOARD" (1987)

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Movie Review: "Dude" (2018)

Director: Olivia Milch
Year: 2018
Rating: TV-MA
Running Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

A group of marijuana-loving teens prepares for their future as they approach the end of high school.
"These people taking shits are a very captive audience." (Image Source)
High school is coming to an end for this group of teens, and that can only mean one thing: ~*DRaMaAaAaAaAa!*~ "Dude" is the feature film debut of writer/director Olivia Milch, who also wrote "Ocean's 8." The film stars Lucy Hale as Lily, who is on track to go to Columbia University and is valedictorian of her graduating class despite spending most her days getting high with her friends Chloe (Kathryn Prescott), Amelia (Alexandra Shipp), and Rebecca (Awkwafina), and many of her nights getting drunk at parties. At the end of her junior year, her boyfriend/Chloe's brother Thomas (Austin Butler) was killed in a car accident. Now, it's one year later and senior year is coming to a close. Lily is still struggling to get over the loss while she refuses to begin new relationships. She fears that once high school is over, she will lose touch with all her friends. Besides being perpetually stoned, she tries to cope by keeping busy and controlling everything and everyone in her life until it all kind of blows up in her face.
"For someone who is so nice, you're actually kind of a bitch." (Image Source)
What we have here is a mostly formulaic coming-of-age drama. It follows the trend of portraying young women as people who like to smoke weed, who drink booze, who talk dirty, who enjoy sex, and who use their menstruation as an excuse to get out of trouble or out of class. This is not a big deal to us in the slightest, but we've noticed it has already been becoming a bit of a new movie cliche. The film focuses primarily on the character of Lily, who is a bit of a control freak and tries to shape her and her friends' futures to suit her own needs. The next biggest focus is on Lily's best friend Chloe, who is thinking of attending UCSB instead of NYU, which is what Lily wants her to do and what they have had planned for years. The other two friends are just there in much more minor roles to make racially-motivated quips about how they are Lily and Chloe's minority friends. Seriously, that's all they get to do. Rebecca fantasizes about an inappropriate relationship with her philosophy teacher and goes as far as masturbating while thinking of him in a high school bathroom stall. The philosophy teacher also flirts with Rebecca on the regular, though he does have the courtesy to at least wait until a few minutes after graduation to make his actual move and ask her out. As for Amelia, she just sits around complaining about how the guy she is fucking is cheating on her. There is also a rape scene that is completely glossed over, which didn't sit well with us. It isn't taken seriously, there are no real ramifications that stem from the incident, and it is brushed aside in favor of more weed smoking and dick jokes. We don't think this is the right message for Olivia Milch to send to the people who are going to wind up watching this movie and it was absolutely startling to see this play out the way it did.
"How could you be friends with someone who didn't know Thomas?" (Image Source)
The script is full of cringey dialogue and lines that are supposed to be spoken by teenagers but sound absolutely nothing like anything a teenager would ever say...a least we hope they don't. The pacing of this film is terribly slow, and the movie winds up being a total slog because of it. The characters aren't likable in the slightest. They feel unrealistic, so in turn, they aren't that relatable. We wound up waiting for the movie to end while getting nothing from this story.

As someone who has been a teenage girl in the past, I never experienced three-fourths of these problems in four years of high school, whereas these kids go through a multitude more in just a week's time. We know this is a work of fiction, but come on. At least make it *a little* believable and *a little* less grating. In the end, "Dude" is a total pain to get through. Even though it's free to watch on Netflix, it still isn't worth the time you'll waste viewing it. You'll never get those minutes back.

My Rating: 1.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 2/10
IMDB's Rating: ~5.2/10
RT Rating: ---%
Do we recommend this movie: AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE!!!

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

Friday, June 15, 2018

Movie Review: "The Strangers: Prey At Night" (2018)

Director: Johannes Roberts
Year: 2018
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

A family heads for a weekend at an almost deserted mobile home park run by family members where they are accosted by three strangers who are killing for kicks.
"There are these crazy people and they are trying to kill us." (Image Source)
Like many horror films, "The Strangers: Prey at Night" opens with the claim that it is "based on a true story"........yeah right. It is "based on a true story" in the sense that someone was probably once stabbed in a mobile home park somewhere in America, but that's about it. This film is directed by Johannes Roberts, who has directed such films as "Darkhunters," "The Other Side of the Door," and "47 Meters Down." The movie revolves around a family who has had a recent conflict over the behavioral problems of their daughter. Despite this, the family piles into the car for one last road trip before she goes off to reform school. They head to a family-run mobile home park to spend a weekend together. Once there, a strange woman comes to the door, followed by the inevitable home invasion attack which leaves the family fighting for their lives.
"What are you doing in my house?" (Image Source)
Ten years ago, "The Strangers" was released to rather mediocre critical reception, but it managed to pull in $80+ million at the global box office. With that profit margin, it was only a matter of time before a sequel was made, though we wonder why it took a decade to produce another one. Now that we have seen "The Strangers: Prey at Night," it is pretty damn clear that there couldn't really be any more story expanded on such a thin premise. What we get here is the same basic formula as the original, but now in a new setting. The action and escape are expanded to the entirety of a mobile home park, which apparently nobody lives in during the off-season. Taking the story out of the confines of a house and expanding it to a large property poses other problems. The masked villains of the story go from being average crazies to seeming supernatural beings who have omniscient powers and know where their victims are at all times. Tropey, tropey, tropey, and without any thought.
"Teenagers do stupid shit. I'm a teenager, mom." (Image Source)
"The Strangers: Prey at Night" starts off fine and dandy, following the same beats as the original, so much so that it feels almost like a direct remake, not a sequel. There is a bit of suspense and tension in the first part of the film that makes it enjoyable. That being said, as the movie moves along, it gets increasingly more stupid and more unbelievable. At first, it isn't too bad, but we can pinpoint the exact moment when the movie jumps the shark, and at that point, we felt like telling the victims, "fuck you, you deserve to die." Is this terrible? Yes, but they are just too goddamn stupid. Ain't that a bitch? It feels like this movie goes out of its way to be one walking cliche after another. It also seems as if Roberts ran out of story 40 minutes into it and had to keep finding ways to fill time and drag things out, not for tension or mood, but to make the movie longer any way he could. By the end of it all, we just didn't care anymore. Roberts wasn't done when the film reached its climax. No no, that'd be too easy. To add insult to injury, he dives into the horror trope grab-bag one last time just before the credits roll so he could add a final unnecessary jump scare that doesn't make any sense in the context of the narrative.

We wish we could say we recommend "The Strangers: Prey At Night," but we can't. There are too many cliches to make it worth your while. Most fans of bloody death scenes will be happy no matter what they watch, so why not rent something that's a little more clever than this rehash?

My Rating: 4/10
BigJ's Rating: 3.5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~5.3/10
RT Rating: 39%
Do we recommend this movie: AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE!!!

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

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Movie Review: "Upgrade" (2018)

Director: Leigh Whannell
Year: 2018
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

When a man named Grey and his wife Asha are assaulted by a group of men while driving home, the attack leaves him paralyzed and his wife dead. Grey then gets the opportunity to be the test subject for a new technology called STEM that will allow him to walk again. This new tech also gives him some unforeseen powers, which he uses to get revenge on those who murdered his wife.
"What's a guy like me supposed to do when the widgets start taking over the world?" (Image Source)
If you take a "Death Wish"-style revenge thriller, add a little "Ex Machina"-style sci-fi thriller, and a sprinkling of superhero-style action with just a dash of horror, you get writer/director Leigh Whannell's latest film "Upgrade." If the name Leigh Whannell sounds familiar, it's because he is one of the writers behind the "Saw" and "Insidious" franchises. The story is about a man named Grey Trace (Logan Marshall-Green), an analog man living in a digital world. He rebuilds classic collectible muscle cars for wealthy collectors. After dropping off his latest rebuild to its new owner, a young tech genius named Eron (Harrison Gilbertson), Grey and his wife Asha get in a car accident when their self-driving car malfunctions. At the scene of the crash, the pair is assaulted by a group of masked men and are shot, leaving Grey paralyzed and Asha dead. Eron offers Grey an opportunity to walk again if he agrees to be a guinea pig and test his new microchip. The new chip called STEM also comes with some unforeseen enhancements, which Grey uses to find his wife's killers and get revenge.
"You thought I was an invalid, but as it turns out, I'm a fucking ninja." (Image Source)
We knew nothing about "Upgrade" going into it. We hadn't seen any marketing material for it at all. It's a damn shame this movie wasn't marketed more because it's an entertaining, impressive and fun movie. This revenge thriller with a sci-fi twist offers up some intricate and cool visuals and an intriguing story that really gripped us and pulled us into the narrative. Whannell also creates a great atmosphere that tells a visual story about the world Grey lives in. This is a relatively low budget movie, but everyone involved in making this project manages to creates something really terrific despite that. The special effects are actually outstanding considering its budgetary restrictions. The plot does follow a simple revenge storyline, but the addition of futuristic gadgets, a couple of really intense action sequences and a horror-movie-level of blood and guts, it all helps add a little something to this tale.
"I'm not accusing you of doing something you're incapable of doing." (Image Source)
We were so pleasantly surprised with "Upgrade." The action scenes are super fun and really exciting. The acting is excellent from everyone involved. We can't wait to see what Logan Marshall-Green does next because he is a total badass here. Some of the elements of the narrative may be a little predictable, but the final outcome left us very satisfied. More movies like this please, Leigh Whannell! If "Upgrade" is playing near you, we implore you to go see it, but try to go into it knowing nothing!

My Rating: 8.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 8.5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~7.8/10
RT Rating: 87%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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