Thursday, September 29, 2016

Movie Review: "XOXO" (2016)

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Director: Christopher Louie
Year: 2016
Rating: NR
Running Time: 1 hour, 32 minutes

The lives of many people converge at an EDM festival/rave called XOXO. 

"XOXO" is directed by first time director Christopher Louie, who also wrote the film along with Dylan Meyer. The film is an ensemble character sketch of numerous people at an electronic dance music (EDM) festival/rave called XOXO. It focuses on six different characters: first, there's aspiring laptop DJ Ethan, played by Graham Phillips, who is getting his first big gig at the festival; next is his manager and friend Tariq, played by Brett DelBuono, who wants more from his life than just working in his father's restaurant; then, there is hopeless romantic Krystal, played by Sarah Hyland, who wants to find someone she can 'swirl' with; up next is a jaded music store owner named Neil, played by Chris D'Elia, who was burned by the industry and still holds a grudge, and finally there is Ray and Shannie, played by Collin Woodell and Hayley Kiyoko, who are facing a potential long distance relationship and what that means for them as a couple.

Look, we get it. We don't like to admit it, but we're old farts now. We're not hip to "the scene." Being in or out of the scene won't make "XOXO" any better. This movie is atrociously bad. The film is filled with a bunch of Hollywood-style eye-candy dressed in hyper neon colored clothing dancing around to terrible music in a movie with no substance, no talent, a hefty dose of gay panic, and faux deepness akin to what you'd find an internet guru espousing on YouTube. The story is pretty much nonexistent, the characters are paper thin, the acting is dreadfully bad, and the dialogue consists mainly of phrases stolen right off of motivational posters and ripped from the pages of self-help books. The vast majority of its run time consists of panning shots of crowds of people dancing and women making out with each other for no reason other than "it's a rave!!!!" This all may be enough for some viewers, but it's not for us. We don't learn anything new from this film and we certainly don't ever want to know what it's like to be a raver, not that "XOXO" told us anything about that life anyway. If you're into this scene, you'll probably identify with everything that goes on here, but maybe reevaluate your life while you're at it.

"XOXO" winds up being a boring, childish movie with no characters we care about, no engaging situations, and terrible acting to boot. Not even the usually funny Chris D'Elia can save this film from being a relative trash-heap. When your film is supposed to be all about the characters within its story, you damn well better find a way to get the audience to connect to them other than lesbian make-out scenes, constant drug use, and laptop DJ thumping. This movie is why people hate millennials, and we say this knowing one of us is a millennial.

My Rating: 1.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 1.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 5.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 71%
Do we recommend this movie: AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE!!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Top 10 Films Directed by Tim Burton!

It's no secret: we love Tim Burton. From his dark, twisted pictures to his bubbling, whimsical, brightly colored films, we have always been huge fans of this unique director. Before "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children," which comes out September 30th, 2016, we decided to watch ALL of Burton's works and make a list of the top 10 best films directed by the man himself! Here are our 10 favorites!
10. "Sleepy Hollow" (1999): One of Tim Burton's bloodiest flicks, "Sleepy Hollow" is a twisted, engaging, thematically dark ghost-centric horror that can feel a bit slow at times, but is worth it in the end. Great performances add to the creep factor, and Burton's excellent visuals display some pretty horrific acts of violence perpetrated by an undead, headless former war mercenary in this gothic horror fantasy. 7.5/10
9. "Pee-wee's Big Adventure" (1985): Riotous, goofy, and bizarre, "Pee-wee's Big Adventure" is a movie with a lot of nostalgia factor for us. Aided by Danny Elfman's wonderfully weird and beautiful score and Paul Reubens' portrayal of the titular character, this is definitely a film you should check out! 8/10
8. "Corpse Bride" (2005): Hauntingly beautiful and tremendously animated, this feature length stop-motion  animated flick is one of Burton's best. Some may think a movie all about an undead bride is too dark or melancholy, but it's really just a creepy, fun Gothic romance with a ton of fantastic music. 8/10
7. "Batman" (1989): With a dingy, retro-yet-modern Gotham and a kick-ass Batman in Michael Keaton, "Batman" has the more intimate feeling of a crime-noir blended with comic book elements. We like the darker side of the characters and the setting this movie offers from Burton's wild imagination despite a few now-dated aspects. 8/10
6. "Beetlejuice" (1988): "Beetlejuice" offers up a ton of laughs as well as a fun, compelling story that is still enjoyable almost 30 years later. This film has truly stood the test of time and we still very much appreciate the work put into this picture to make the awkward and mildly horrifying, but hilarious and extremely memorable paranormal comedy we know and love come to life. Michael Keaton owns the part and is perfect for it. 8.5/10
5. "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" (2007): A movie adaptation of the musical with the same name, "Sweeney Todd" is a Burton favorite of ours, overlooked in favor of his other mainstream hits. Everything is washed in a dismal, drab color palette except for the blood, which is bright, bright red, and boy, is there a lot of it. All of the aspects of Burton's twisted vision come to life in this sickening movie, but it's really so sick that it's good. Be sure to watch with the lights off. 8.5/10
4. "Big Eyes" (2014): The true life story of Margaret and Walter Keane is such a spectacle, we're surprised we had never heard of it, but now, we're glad we got the chance to hear their tale come to life by Tim Burton. "Big Eyes" is full of charm, excellent performances by Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz, and gorgeous yet haunting paintings. 9/10
3. "Edward Scissorhands" (1990): Juxtaposing bright, vibrant colors and dark, foreboding ones, "Edward Scissorhands" is one of Burton's best. The score by Danny Elfman, the makeup work, the undeniably brilliant performance by Johnny Depp, and the imaginative story all combine to make one weird but beautiful film. 9/10
2. "Ed Wood" (1994): A fantastic movie about the worst director ever. This film is touching, hilarious, and completely engaging. It is brilliantly acted by Martin Landau, with equally excellent performances by Johnny Depp and Sarah Jessica Parker, and many other fabulous actors. Burton's decision to make the entire movie black and white only makes it feel that much more realistic. A must-see for cinephiles! 10/10
1. "Big Fish" (2006): Our favorite Tim Burton film also happens to be his most underrated one. "Big Fish" combines classic Burton-esque bright colors with peculiarities, and its message, themes, characters, and essence resonate so strongly with us, we had no choice but to make it our pick for the best film directed by Tim Burton. We absolutely adore every aspect of this movie, no matter how sad it may make us when all is said and done. The acting is perfect, the vast cast is vibrant, and the story boasts a big, fanciful plot full of lessons in life, love, lies, imagination, and loss. Please do yourself a favor and watch this gem of a film. 10/10

Do you agree or disagree with our list? Let us know in the comments, or tweet your top 10 to us @lololovesfilms!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Movie Review #495: "77 Minutes" (2016)

Movie"77 Minutes"
Director: Charlie Minn
Rating: ---
Running Time: ---
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An in-depth look at the San Ysidro McDonald's massacre of 1984 with a focus on the victims and their families and friends.

Directed by Charlie Minn, "77 Minutes" is a documentary that takes a look at the McDonald's Massacre, a mass shooting which occurred in San Ysidro, a community of San Diego, California, in 1984. This massacre left 21 people dead and 19 more injured. In this in-depth documentary, Minn sits down to interview surviving victims and the relatives of those who lost loved ones. Many of the victims recount their personal experiences, including how they reacted when they realized what was going on, where they hid inside the McDonald's as the shooter kept reloading his various weapons, as well as detailing the carnage they saw in front of them. In a shocking but powerful choice, Minn includes much of the raw police crime scene footage and photos from that fateful day, all of which is extremely graphic and reduced us to tears. He also speaks with some of the members of the police force who responded to the shooting, including former two-time mayor of San Diego Jerry Sanders. At the time, Sanders was a SWAT commander, and though Minn gives the police props for bringing the situation to an eventual close, he also doesn't pull any punches in questioning whether or not things could have been done differently and if, in hindsight, there were any mistakes made. In total, the shooting took 77 minutes to bring to a close, thus the name of the film. There were many odd and now somewhat questionable circumstances which led to this shooting being so drawn out, including Sanders' malfunctioning beeper and his potential whereabouts, the blazing San Diego summer sun beaming down into the McDonald's double-paned windows, directly getting in the way of any accurate shots by police to take out the suspect, the uncertainty of just how many perpetrators were inside the restaurant, and much more.

We commend Charlie Minn's choice to never mention the shooter by name because the piece of human garbage who committed this heinous act in part of our fine city does not deserve to have their name mentioned. As is often the case in America, we are too focused on the perpetrator, plastering the names of those who commit atrocities across the news and social media, leaving the victims of such horrific events to be nothing more than mere statistics. We wish this would change, and "77 Minutes" is a step in the right direction. Instead, Minn focuses on the victims of this tragedy, putting a spotlight on them and their stories, including their lives before the event, who they were as people, and even their heroism during the complete and utter chaos, especially those who died shielding loved ones or the ones who tried to talk to the shooter to change their mind.

Some may question Minn's choice to show the graphic images and police video of the aftermath of the shooting, which shows the bodies of those who died in great detail sprawled inside and outside the McDonald's. This is, however, a documentary on a mass shooting. In a brief Q&A after the film, Minn himself mentioned "this is not a comedy. This is real life, it's as real as it gets," when asked whether or not he thought his documentary was too vivid. It is one thing to hear about the carnage and another thing to see it. It is easy to ignore an event like this when you don't see the aftermath and solely think of all the victims as numbers on a page. To hear that 21 people died is unsettling, but in our society, we are so trained to mourn tragedies like this, and after a short grieving period, we all move on, until a few months, or weeks, and more recently days pass by and the next mass shooting occurs. To see the bodies of the 21 people, many of whom were children, are images you won't soon forget.

At the time of its occurrence, the 77 minute tragedy in San Ysidro was the worst mass shooting in American history, which is horrible enough. It remained the worst mass shooting a mere 7 years. What's worse is that today, it only ranks #5 on this list, meaning things aren't getting better. To top it all off, until the nightclub shooting in Florida this past June, the McDonald's massacre was ranked the #1 "deadliest shooting rampage in which the perpetrator was killed by police as opposed to committing suicide," according to the book Inside the Minds of Mass Murderers: Why They Kill. Though we sought out "77 Minutes" because of our local ties to the story, being lifelong San Diegans, we had no idea the extent of this tragedy because it happened before our time. We were profoundly moved by hearing the stories of those who experienced the tragedy firsthand, and we're glad to see a film that finally focuses on the victims of a crime and not the perpetrator.

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

Movie Review: "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" (1988)

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Movie"Dirty Rotten Scoundrels"
Director: Frank Oz
Year: 1988
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

A nickel and dime con-man named Freddy Benson (Steve Martin) is taken under the wing of high class con-artist Lawrence Jamieson (Michael Caine), who gets big money from high dollar marks. When Freddy thinks he's learned everything there is to know, he makes a "loser leaves town" bet on who can be the first to con 50k from 'American Soap Queen' Janet Colgate (Glenne Headly).

"Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" is a con-artist comedy directed by Frank Oz, who is best known as the voice of Yoda and Miss Piggy, but is also known for directing films like "What About Bob" and "Little Shop of Horrors." It stars Steve Martin and Michael Caine as con-men Freddy Benson and Lawrence Jamieson. Freddy is a nickel and dimer who picks up a dinner here or 20 bucks there by peddling his shtick about his ailing grandmother. Lawrence deals solely in wealthy upper class marks, ones he convinces he is a prince trying to save his financially struggling country against the communists. Lawrence often pulls tens of thousands of dollars a job doing this conman routine. When Freddy learns what's possible in the world of scamming, he asks Lawrence to teach him. The two pull some cons together, but when Freddy starts to feel like he is the one doing all the work and getting none of the reward, he decides he's better off on his own. Lawrence would prefer Freddy leave town so he doesn't taint any possible marks. The two make a loser leaves town bet on who can get 50k first from a woman they believe to be a wealthy heiress and 'American Soap Queen' named Janet Colgate, played by Glenne Headly.

This film showcases Steve Martin and Michael Caine in top form. The two share great chemistry and a witty reportage together. Martin also adds a level of goofy physical comedy while Caine acts as straight-man to Martin's buffoonery. Their dynamic offers consistent laughs throughout the entire film. Glenne Headly also does an excellent job making you believe her innocent, gullible persona. Her heart seems bigger than her head, and as the audience, we almost feel bad they are trying to con her. Despite these men trying to steal $50k from this unsuspecting sweet woman, we still like these guys because they are just so damn charming. Some of the jokes might be a little too risque in the year where everything is offensive, but we can't help but laugh at Martin's antics and Caine's stodgy, stiff upper lip.

Despite what some may think, "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" has held up really well over the years and is definitely worth checking out for those who like witty comedies. Steve Martin and Michael Caine provide excellent banter as this pair of con men, and Glenne Headly holds her own with these two veteran actors. We only hope the inevitable remake will be able to capture the same charm, humor, and spirit of this original.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 88%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Movie Review: "Hocus Pocus" (1993)

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Movie"Hocus Pocus"
Director: Kenny Ortega
Year: 1993
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 36 minutes

A trio of witches known as the Sanderson sisters return from the grave after 300 years to hunt down and suck life out of the children of Salem.

"Hocus Pocus" is directed by Kenny Ortega. It tells the story of the Sanderson sisters named Winifred, Mary, and Sarah, played by Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker. These witches were hung in 1693 by the townspeople of Salem for stealing children. 300 years later, a teen named Max, played by Omri Katz, moves to Salem with his family. He is very skeptical of the legend of the Sanderson sisters, so on Halloween night 1993, his crush and true believer Allison, played by Vinessa Shaw, takes Max and his little sister Dani, played by Thora Birch, to the Sanderson house where, if a virgin lights the black flame candle on Halloween, legend has it the sisters will return from the grave. Being the skeptic that he is, Max lights the candle, inadvertently bringing them back to life. In order to stay alive, the sisters must suck the life out of a child using a spell from their book. Now, Max, Allison, Dani, and a cursed cat named Thackery, voiced by Jason Marsden, must keep them from getting this book.

"Hocus Pocus" is a fun family adventure film. It is a bit silly in retrospect, but it does bring many laughs by using the ever-faithful fish out of water scenario by having witches from the 17th century become relocated to the 20th century. The kids really don't have a lot of great moments and don't add a ton laughs as the best lines in the film are reserved for the more veteran actresses. Bette Midler gets a chance to show off her vocal talents, performing "I Put a Spell On You" at a Halloween party because as everyone knows, singers who act always get the opportunity to sing in their movies. Even Sarah Jessica Parker gets a to belt out a little ditty, though in a far less rangy song which she uses to lure children to their doom. The makeup work is mostly always great, giving the three witches a fun, whimsical look mixed with some spooky witch features. Also, the makeup work on Billy Butcherson, a zombie brought back to life by Winifred to chase the children, is well done and performed convincingly by go-to monster man Doug Jones. As the film takes place on Halloween in the town of Salem, everything is dolled up real nice in the vast, autumnal colors of fall, covered in Halloween signatures like pumpkins, costumes, candles, and black cats.

If you can get past the cheese factor, "Hocus Pocus" is a perfect choice to get you into the spirit of the Halloween holiday. This movie might have a pretty harsh sounding premise, but it's really not that bad.

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 6.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 30%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Movie Review #494: "Storks" (2016)

Director: Nicholas Stoller and Doug Sweetland
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 29 minutes
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18 years ago, storks stopped delivering babies and switched to package delivery. Junior (Andy Samberg) is the best delivery stork in the whole company. He has just received an offer for a promotion if he can fire the orphan Tulip (Katie Crown), who has just turned 18. When he feels bad and can't fire her, Junior puts Tulip in the now-empty mail room and tells her not to leave. When she answers a letter request for a baby, Junior and Tulip scramble to deliver the infant before the boss finds out and he loses his promotion.

"Storks" is written by Nicholas Stoller, who has written films like "The Muppets" and "Muppets Most Wanted." He has also directed several films such as the "Neighbors" series. He also directed this family-friendly animated feature along with Doug Sweetland, who worked in the animation department on many Pixar films. "Storks" is developed by Warner Bros. Animation group, who brought us 2014's incredibly fun "The Lego Movie." This movie exists in a world where the legend of storks delivering babies is true, although it readily admits there are other ways of getting babies, too, without going into too much detail. After an incident 18 years back when a stork went crazy and tried to keep a baby he was supposed to deliver, the storks gave up the practice altogether and switched to the much safer package delivery industry. Junior, voiced by Andy Samberg, is the best delivery stork in the company where all the storks work,, and has just been offered a promotion by his boss Hunter, voiced by Kelsey Grammer. All Junior has to do is fire Tulip, voiced by Katie Crown, the aforementioned orphan child the stork failed to deliver 18 years ago. Tulip tends to cause chaos in her efforts to help, but she is kind and has a good heart. Junior can't bring himself to fire her and sticks her away in the mail room, which never gets letters anymore. When she receives a letter from a child requesting a baby brother, Tulip goes to deliver it despite being told to never leave the room. Then, she inadvertently activates the baby machine and makes a baby. Now, Junior has to deliver the baby before anyone finds out about it or face losing his promotion.

We weren't exactly looking forward to "Storks." We weren't blown away by any of the trailers and the whole idea for the movie seemed kind of silly. This just goes to show you can't always judge a movie before seeing it because this film is actually quite funny and is super cute. We are surprised how much we enjoyed it. Andy Samberg's Junior and Katie Crown's Tulip have great chemistry together as they struggle to deliver this unexpected baby. They bicker, they quip, they make up, and they get into all sorts of wild situations along their journey. Meanwhile, a congruent subplot also plays out involving the little boy who requested a sibling from the storks. This little boy is named Nate, voiced by Anton Starkman, who has been neglected by his parents Sarah and Henry, voiced by Jennifer Aniston and Ty Burrell, because they are so focused on their careers that they don't have much time to spend with their son. They come to the realization that their child won't be little forever and eventually, they start spending more time with him on his terms. They help him build a landing platform for the arrival of their new baby, tearing up their house in the process. They pretend all this baby madness is real for the sake of their son and don't have the heart to tell him no baby will ever come because storks stopped delivering them. Boy, we're they wrong!

There is a good message in "Storks" about being there for your kids while you can (and while they are still young), as well as remembering the importance family even when life gets crazy busy. Towards the end of the film, it also sets itself apart by painting the picture that families are comprised of more than just the nuclear type, including many diverse groups of families to show that they don't always have to feature a husband, a wife, and a child. We appreciate the effort put forth by those who made this movie to show these difference.

Sure, like most films, not all of the jokes in "Storks" land, mostly those involving The Pigeon Toady, voiced by Stephen Kramer Glickman, though kids make like his odd personality, goofy look, and weird voice. We found him grinding the film to a screeching halt each time he flapped his beak. Mostly, there is a lot of wit and humor in the dialogue and delivery of it, making "Storks" a surprisingly enjoyable film for both adults and kids. We are blown away by how fast paced, fun, and beautifully animated it is, so if you have kids, be sure to take them to this funny, heartwarming film!

My Rating: 7.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 63%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

Movie Review: "The Little Prince" (2016)

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Movie"The Little Prince"
Director: Mark Osborne
Year: 2016
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 48 minutes

An old man (Jeff Bridges) tells the story of the little prince to a girl (Mackenzie Foy), who up until now has spent her whole young life preparing for her future.

"The Little Prince" is directed by Mark Osborne, who takes a different approach in the telling of this classic children's tale BigJ and I both read at some point in our younger years. It stars the voice talents of Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Paul Rudd, Marion Cotillard, Ricky Gervais, James Franco, Benicio Del Toro, Paul Giamatti, and Albert Brooks, just to name a few. In the world that exists in this movie, everything is about business and everyone is focused on preparing for, getting, and having a career. Even children spend their lives meticulously curated down to the second, being groomed for their futures by their parents who are never around because they are too focused on their own careers. Everyone in this world acts this way except for the old, crotchety Aviator, voiced by Jeff Bridges. In a world full of squares, he is the only circle. He is an artist and a dreamer who looks for hope and inspiration wherever he can find it. The little girl who has just moved in next door, voiced by Mackenzie Foy, is being groomed for her eventual success in business. Her mother, voiced by Rachel McAdams, plans out every second of every minute of every day of every month of every year as a path to success. Unfortunately, she didn't count on the oddball Aviator next door, who gives her little girl pages and drawings of his story called "The Little Prince." As the audience, we get to experience the story with the little girl and see her transformation from a career-oriented child to a person willing to dream about the fun, endless possibilities life can have if you stop planning out every second of every minute of every day of every month of every year of your life.

From a visual standpoint, the way the story of "The Little Prince" is told is visually striking and extremely beautiful. The world where the little girl, her mother, and the Aviator live is shown as one animation style, closer to a typical cartoon, while the drawings and story by the Aviator are shown in a different way, like paper come to life. As these two simultaneous animation styles intertwine, we are fully drawn to not only the story itself, but how it relates to this business-oriented world we find these characters living in, much like our own. The actors who lend their voices to this project are perfectly fitting, especially Jeff Bridges, who can do the grizzled old guy voice extremely well. Each piece of the equation comes together in a near perfect manner full of true but somewhat harsh commentary on our modern society, imagination, and of course, tons of charm. Sometimes, BigJ and I feel like dreamers in a world so focused on money and business and success. We always strive to forge our own paths in life, even if it makes us the oddball outcasts like the Aviator. Maybe this is why we relate to the story so much, or maybe, it's just because all the pieces of this beautiful film fall into place to make one magnificent, gorgeous movie kids and adults can love together and separately.

"The Little Prince" serves as a reminder to not forget to have a childhood. It also wants its audience to remember that all of us adults were kids at one point and there's more to life than what is efficient and profitable and scheduled and regimented. This is a heartfelt tale we really relate to on a personal level and it even brought us to tears. This movie was originally supposed to get a wide theatrical release in the U.S., and after seeing it, we are very sad it didn't. We are glad it was picked up by Netflix and is able to be viewed there for all of time. We loved this film's touching allegories on life, love, and the importance of dreaming, as well as what it has to say about never fully losing the heart you once had as a child. This is absolutely worth checking out, in fact, we implore you see it as soon as possible.

My Rating: 9/10
BigJ's Rating: 9/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 93%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!