Monday, October 19, 2020

Movie Review: "Eat Wheaties!" (2020)

Movie still for the comedy film "Eat Wheaties!" (2020), starring Tony Hale, Elisha Cuthbert, Robbie Amell, Paul Walter Hauser, Alan Tudyk, Sarah Chalke, and Lamorne Morris
(Image Source)
Movie"Eat Wheaties!"
Director: Scott Abramovitch
Year: 2020
Rating: NR
Running Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

There will be times in life when you're going about your day, and you run into someone from your past, like a high school acquaintance or an old college pal. Most of us briefly acknowledge the other person and do the half-friendly half-morbidly-embarrassed nod/sup-head-lift/semi-wave because we fear the awkward "catch-up-conversation" that inevitably follows. In the age of social media, former friends and acquaintances find each other on sites like Facebook, requesting friendships that are mostly limited to a "like" here and a "happy birthday" comment there. Sid Straw (Tony Hale), the lead character in writer/director Scott Abramovitch's "Eat Wheaties!" (2020), is in a league of gauche all his own. Sid goes out of his way to seek out life's awkward conversations, whether he does so knowingly or not. In fact, his whole life (and pretty much every interaction he has) is an embarrassing conversation. When Sid finds an old college buddy on Facebook, he's ready to share his life story with her, even when said college buddy just so happens to be a celebrity, someone like, say, Heather Locklear...no, no, someone more relevant: Elizabeth Banks. He sends her a quick friend request, then goes on to have several very personal, very one-sided, very public conversations with her Facebook wall. Since Sid is an older guy who is a bit out of touch, he isn't aware that all these posts are visible by everyone who comes across her page, and his "letters" to Elizabeth eventually send his life spiraling out of control.
Elisha Cuthbert and David Walton have dinner with Tony Hale in a movie still for the film "Eat Wheaties!"
(Image Source)
"Eat Wheaties!" (2020) is based on author Michael Kun's book "The Locklear Letters," which we wanted to seek out immediately after the film ended. We can't imagine how much more cringe-worthy content is packed in the book because the movie is chock full of it. Sid is a very oblivious person who tries a little too hard at everything he does. His slightly bizarre, aggressively friendly, borderline desperate nature and lack of personal and social filters are very off-putting to most of the people he interacts with, and we as the audience sense the uncomfortable feelings the recipients of his conversations experience. The secondhand embarrassment sets in early and often, and we repeatedly found ourselves slapping our faces and burying our heads in our hands while watching Sid carry on a chat with a coworker, extended family member, or romantic prospect. Come on now, none of us are perfect. We've all said, "you too!" after the ticket taker at a movie theater told you to "enjoy your movie." We've all sent a stupid tweet, or a silly text, or a dumb Tinder message...but how would you feel if your words went viral? Scott Abramovitch does a stellar job putting the audience in Sid's shoes as his online posts end up having real-life consequences. As the film moves along its runtime, it becomes apparent that the screenplay is not solely about its facepalms. There's a lot of sweetness, heart, and soul here, too, and by the movie's end, we felt satisfied with the pile-on-to-sincerity ratio.
Tony Hale and Paul Walter Hauser star in the 2020 movie "Eat Wheaties!"
(Image Source)
We laughed a lot during "Eat Wheaties!" (2020), even when we wanted to bang our heads against the wall while yelling, "Dude! What were you thinking?!" every time Sid did just about anything. Tony Hale was the perfect choice to fill this role as he has had a storied career playing uncomfortable, slightly abrasive characters like Gary Walsh from "Veep" and Buster Bluth from "Arrested Development." The film also boasts a terrific supporting cast, including Alan Tudyk, Sarah Chalke, Elisha Cuthbert, Danielle Brooks, Lamorne Morris, Robbie Amell, and one of our favorite newcomers, Paul Walter Hauser, who has been phenomenal in every movie we've seen him in. The only real "criticism" we can think of is that this feature is a bit formulaic and fairly predictable (and no, we haven't read the book). It might not be genre-defying, but it has enough charm, laughs, and excellent performances to make it worth the price of admission.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: ---/10
RT Rating: ---%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Movie Review: "Escape from Extinction" (2020)

Movie poster for the nature documentary "Escape from Extinction" (2020), narrated by Helen Mirren
Image Source

Movie"Escape from Extinction"
Director: Matthew R. Brady
Year: 2020
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 29 minutes

American Humane's documentary "Escape from Extinction" (2020) could be considered the anti-"Blackfish" (2013), the CNN-produced documentary that provided a scathing indictment of keeping whales in captivity. "Blackfish" (2013) attempted to link the violent behavior of one Orca as evidence of a whale's desire to be in the ocean rather than in an aquarium. It made claims that Orcas never attack humans in the wild, though recent footage of killer whales attacking boats in Spain calls this into question. It also argued against breeding programs, as well as the very existence of parks like Sea World. Like all things in life, there are two sides to every coin, and all documentaries come with some form of inherent bias. "Escape from Extinction" (2020) explores the importance of zoos and aquariums and the work they do to conserve endangered species throughout the globe. It serves to educate the public on the actual work these parks do behind closed doors and away from the public eye as they attempt to bring species back from the brink of extinction.

An African elephant with large white tusks in the movie "Escape from Extinction"
(Image Source)
There's no doubt "Escape from Extinction" (2020) is pushing its own agenda. However, it does offer a strong argument in favor of the existence of zoos and aquariums as long as they are accredited like the San Diego Zoo, Sea World, and the Birch Aquarium, not 'for-profit' roadside zoos like the one seen on Netflix's "Tiger King." Documentaries like "Blackfish" (2013) rely on emotion and more anecdotal evidence, but "Escape from Extinction (2020) is much more facts-and-data-driven. It feels like its primary purpose is to reason with the audience and to explain what zoos and aquariums actually do. Director Matthew R. Brady wants to stress that these places are not animal prisons that recklessly put exotic creatures on display for the amusement of the masses, but are places of research and education that strive to give people information about and passion for wildlife and conservation.

As we mentioned, this entire project feels like a direct response to the animal rights activists who have continually called for global boycotts of zoos and aquariums until the immediate release of all animals into the wild. "Escape from Extinction" (2020) lets viewers know that releasing animals into the wild could very likely be a death sentence for creatures who have spent years in the care of humans. It'd be like taking a family dog (one that has spent its entire life in human care), letting it go, and making it fend for itself in the wilderness. The primary account cited against releasing animals into the wild is the story of Keiko from the film "Free Willy" (1993), who was released from captivity in 2002 but was never able to survive without human help despite millions of dollars invested and years of integration training. Up until his death in December 2003, Keiko sought out human interaction, and he was never able to integrate with other Orcas because humans were all he had ever known. He was supposed to be a success story, but spending $20,000,000 to keep one whale alive for publicity is anything but a victory. While well-intentioned, saying "free all the animals" frequently means "let's send these animals off to die." Writers Alex Blumberg and Peter Meadows really pound in just how many species would now be extinct if it weren't for the efforts of zoos and aquariums. Animals like the grey wolves of Yellowstone, the American bison, the black-footed ferret, and many others would be gone forever if not for the conservation done by these parks.

The other aspect of "Escape from Extinction" (2020) involves showing how we got where we are in terms of the sheer number of endangered and extinct species on our planet. These beings aren't becoming extinct because nature is taking its course. They are being destroyed by poaching, deforestation, urban sprawl, industrialization, and environmental pollution via oil and plastics. These are man-made problems, and if people are part of the problem, they also have to be part of the solution.
Sea World employees give medical care to a manatee in a movie still for the 2020 documentary "Escape from Extinction."
Sea World employees give medical care to a manatee in a movie still for the 2020 documentary "Escape from Extinction." (Image Source)
"Escape from Extinction" (2020) is a competently made film that features an excellent voiceover by Dame Helen Mirren. This isn't a documentary like "The Cove" (2009) that will leave you sobbing and/or in shock, but it might make you think (or rethink) about accredited zoos and aquariums. While it is certainly biased, it makes a compelling argument that's difficult to counter. As much as we agree with the subject matter, after a while, the information does start to feel a bit redundant. We understand early on that zoos are a vital cog in the enormous machine of animal conservation, so we felt like the runtime could have easily been cut by 10-15 minutes without losing its impactful point. Without zoos and aquariums, much of the funding for global conservation efforts wouldn't be there, and many of the experts who go into the field to help animals wouldn't exist without the training and interactions they have had with the wildlife at these places. We wish the movie had offered a few more solutions beyond "support the organizations in which we're heavily involved," but the message is crucial nonetheless.

My Rating: 6.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: ---/10
RT Rating: ---%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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

Friday, October 16, 2020

Movie Review: "before/during/after" (2020)

Movie poster for the 2020 film "before/during/after," starring Finnerty Steeves, Jeremy Davidson, Richard Masur, Marin Hinkle, Miriam Shor, Kate Burton, and Deirdre O'Connell
Image Source
Movie"before/during/after"
Director: Stephen Kunken and Jack Lewars
Year: 2020
Rating: NR
Running Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

We all have our own ways of dealing with the difficult circumstances life throws at us. Many people turn to professional help from counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists to discover different coping techniques, from simply reflecting on the good times you've had in life, up to and including role-playing your way through your problems. When you're an actor, however, you get a unique opportunity to really take 'role-playing through your problems' to the next level. "before/during/after" (2020) feels like writer/producer/star Finnerty Steeves's therapy through her art. Without even knowing the details of her personal life, we could tell right away that this project hit close to home for her. A quick Google search will tell you this film is very much a reflection of how her real-life 15-year marriage came to an end. In an interview with W42ST.com, Steeves discusses what went wrong in her actual relationship, much of which is shown on-screen, verbatim, in "before/during/after" (2020). Though this movie is directed by Stephen Kunken and Jack Lewars, we have a hunch they didn't take much artistic license beyond the initial script because it feels like they let it remain mostly (if not entirely) Steeves' story.

Photo: Finnerty Steeves and Jeremy Davidson look at greeting cards in the 2020 indie movie "before/during/after."
Photo: Finnerty Steeves and Jeremy Davidson look at greeting cards in the 2020 indie movie "before/during/after." (Image provided by the San Diego International Film Festival)
"before/during/after" (2020) is billed as a dramedy, though it leans into the drama more than the comedy. It's not the kind of movie that's full of the grandiose, over-the-top blowouts full of screaming and namecalling, you know, the one we've become accustomed to seeing in "soured relationship" movies (looking at you, "Marriage Story"). It's more of a "stoic reflection" type of drama as we watch actress Jennie (Finnerty Steeves) and her husband David (Jeremy Davidson) try to salvage what's left of their broken kinship. There are a couple of big, gut-punching emotional scenes, but where this film thrives is in its quietly pointed moments of absolute devastation as Jennie and David desperately try to save what has been shattered by infidelity, unaddressed needs, and a long-term lack of communication. While they reminisce about their happiest memories together, discuss "the other woman," and attend a revolving door of counseling sessions that would be enough to make the strongest couples fold, they come to the realization that they have always wanted very different things and had very different expectations for their marriage.

It's not all doom and gloom, though. There are several hilarious scenes in "before/during/after" (2020). But, even with the wacky couples therapists, a raunchy night out for Jennie and her girlfriends, and a trip to a pleasure palace for a vibrator "for her friend's bachelorette party," the story never feel phony or unrealistic. It's not a complex narrative full of crazy twists and turns. There are no grand romantic gestures or artificial Hollywood resolutions. It's merely a raw, relatable slice of one woman's life as she comes to terms with ending the relationship she's been in for nearly half of her existence. Finnerty Steeves acts the pants off of her part, but now that we know it's based on her real-life relationship, we're not surprised she nailed it.

On a technical note, we will admit the first portion of the film does aimlessly wander here and there. This is likely because the first few acts are told through a series of flashbacks as we watch Jennie relive the memories of her relationship during an audition for a part that's a little on the nose. Some viewers won't like that it's occasionally choppy, and while it didn't bother us too much, it did slow down the pacing just a skosh.
Photo: Jeremy Davidson, Finnerty Steeves, and Richard Masur star in "before/during/after" (2020)
Photo: Jeremy Davidson, Finnerty Steeves, and Richard Masur star in "before/during/after" (2020). (Image provided by the San Diego International Film Festival)
"before/during/after" (2020) might not be the best film to watch if you're in a bad place in your marriage, but it's definitely worth checking out. We both liked this movie and thought it was engaging, though I liked it a bit more than BigJ did. He felt like it was missing an emotional spark. On the other hand, I was either consistently laughing or silently crying throughout its runtime.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 6/10
IMDB's Rating: ~9.4/10
RT Rating: ---%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Movie Review: "Spenser Confidential" (2020)

Director: Peter Berg
Year: 2020
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 52 minutes

At least one thing is guaranteed in this crazy world of ours: Mark Wahlberg will always have a thriving career as a leading man so long as Peter Berg is directing movies. Many of the earlier collaborations between Berg and Wahlberg include films based on true stories, like Deepwater Horizon, Lone Survivor, and Patriots Day. We liked all of these titles despite them being a bit gung-ho and jingoistic, titles that were made to motivate audiences to collectively chant USA! USA!, but they are entertaining nonetheless. Lately, Berg and Wahlberg have been making fictional action flicks with the same undertones, but with much less success. Their latest collaboration is the Netflix original "Spenser Confidential" (2020), which we had no idea was based on a book series (shout-out to my grandma who used to read them and told us about this!). Wahlberg plays Spenser, which may sound like the name of a CPA or a software programmer, but really, he's just your typical tough guy Boston cop, ya know, the type of character he usually plays. Spenser has a strict moral code. He goes to prison for trying to weed out corruption from within the Boston police department after confronting his captain, which led to a rather public beatdown. The same day Spenser gets out of prison after serving five years, his crooked captain, Boylan (Michael Gaston), winds up dead in a bus yard. When the Boston P.D. tries to pin the crime on a cop that Spenser knows to be an honest, hardworking, straight-laced man, Spenser takes it upon himself to solve the murder and get to the bottom of this corruption in the B.P.D. He enlists the help of his old friend and trainer Henry (Alan Arkin) and his aspiring MMA fighter roommate Hawk (Winston Duke) to assist with the investigation.
Photo: In Netflix's original film "Spenser Confidential (2020), Spenser (Mark Wahlberg) and Hawk (Winston Duke) meet up with journalist Wayne Cosgrove (Marc Maron) to look at the evidence about Wonderland.
Photo: In Netflix's original film "Spenser Confidential (2020), Spenser (Mark Wahlberg) and Hawk (Winston Duke) meet up with journalist Wayne Cosgrove (Marc Maron) to look at the evidence about Wonderland.
"Spencer Confidential" (2020) desperately wants to be a primo action buddy comedy, but the action is both generic and lacking, and the comedy is mediocre at best. We weren't wowed by anything that happens action-wise, and the comedy is the same deadpan sarcasm we've seen Mark Wahlberg do for the last decade. There are a couple of solid jokes that got us laughing, but overall, the script is full of wisecracks where "old man yells at cloud" after getting out of prison because he doesn't understand non-dairy alternatives or "the cloud." The only moments of humor that really work come from Alan Arkin and Winston Duke, and maybe one zinger from a brief appearance by Post Malone. Iliza Shlesinger also stars as Spenser's on-again-off-again girlfriend Cissy, who plays up the bombastic Boston stereotype for 110 minutes. It's a shtick that's meant to be funny (and might be accurate according to Bostonians), but we thought it was supremely annoying.

Where "Spenser Confidential" (2020) truly disappoints is in its writing. Berg and writers Sean O'Keefe and Brian Helgeland fail to develop a meaningful connection and chemistry between Hawk and Spenser, the backbone of the film. In fact, it is so sloppily put together that Hawk has no real motives or purpose. That's our biggest complaint about this project: Winston Duke deserved so much better than the limited screentime he has here. Also, Spenser and Hawk's investigation is meant to be a mystery, but we know who the bad guy is as soon as they come into frame. C'mon, at least try to make it a bit less obvious. It's a throwback to the 80s where most cops in cinema were corrupt, and those who aren't corrupt have their hands tied by regulations and rules, which makes them inept. The only people who can do anything about the crimes afoot are renegades who have to bend or break the rules to get the job done. It's so cliche, and it might have been fine if the movie had done anything remotely distinctive, compelling, or outrageously entertaining to set itself apart from the hundreds of others titles just like it. It doesn't. Instead, it winds up being a rather boring, play-it-safe Netflix film with virtually no originality.
Photo: Mark Wahlberg and Post Malone star in Netflix's "Spenser Confidential."
Photo: Mark Wahlberg and Post Malone star in Netflix's "Spenser Confidential." (Image provided by Netflix)
Netflix's "Spenser Confidential" (2020) aspires to be a gritty action drama, but it's too poorly constructed and pulls too many shenanigans to be taken seriously. It also wants to be a buddy cop comedy, but its lazy writing and lack of a strong connection between Hawk and Spencer will almost assuredly make audiences not care about what happens to them. The best thing we can say about "Spenser Confidential" (2020) is that it's an entirely watchable, not completely miserable way to kill two hours if you are bored at home with nothing to do....which makes it pandemic perfect!

My Rating: 4/10
BigJ's Rating: 5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.2/10
RT Rating: 41%
Do we recommend this movie: Meh.

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

Monday, March 9, 2020

Movie Review: "Pain and Glory" (2019)

Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Year: 2019
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 53 minutes

Tinseltown writers and directors frequently churn out semi-autobiographical projects. Hollywood loves fictitious characters in fictional stories inspired by factual events that are sprung from the lives of filmmakers. Some examples are Cameron Crowe's "Almost Famous," John Boorman's "Hope and Glory," Alfonso Cuarón's "Roma," and Noah Baumbach's "The Squid and the Whale" and "Marriage Story." "Pain and Glory" can now be added to that list as Pedro Almodóvar's stab at a semi-autobiographical work. The story revolves around a director named Salvador Mallo (Antonio Banderas) who, as you may have guessed, is a stand-in for Almodóvar himself. Salvador no está bien. His career has been in a slump. He has many health problems that leave him living with a great deal of pain, and he also suffers from depression. When one of Salvador's films, Sabor, is selected to be remastered and re-released at a festival, he is forced to face his past and make amends to the people with whom he had a falling out. Salvador also reflects back on his childhood and the significant moments that led him to where he presently is in his life. He begins experimenting with hard drugs as he debates allowing his very personal semi-autobiographical script titled Addiction to be performed for the first time. It's all very, very meta.
Photo: Asier Flores, Penélope Cruz, and Raúl Arévalo play the Mallo family star in the movie "Pain and Glory."
Photo: Asier Flores, Penélope Cruz, and Raúl Arévalo play the Mallo family star in the movie "Pain and Glory." (Image Source)
Pedro Almodóvar really wanted to put his stamp on the "tortured artist" moniker, and we think he was rather successful at his attempt. In "Pain and Glory," he examines his first experience with homosexual attraction, his greatest lost love, and his struggles with aging and pain, forgetting and forgiveness, and addiction and inspiration through the character Salvador Mallo. Antonio Banderas does a masterful job breathing life into the distressed genius that is Salvador Mallo. His performance is nuanced, subtle, complex, and powerful. We think it's a career-best performance for Banderas. It's no wonder he received a best actor nomination at this year's Oscars! If only Joaquin Phoenix hadn't been so good. Another excellent performance comes from Asier Etxeandia as a struggling, drug-addicted actor named Alberto Crespo, who has had a long-standing feud with Mallo for decades after he was caught using drugs while filming Sabor. Etxeandia and Banderas have a magnificent rapport and chemistry with one another. They share some of the film's best, most entertaining scenes and moments as they reconnect and "chase the dragon" (do heroin) while discussing the past, present, and future of their careers and lives. We're not familiar with Etxeandia apart from this project, but we are going to seek him out in the future because he is just fantastic here. Leonardo Sbaraglia also gives a stellar (albeit brief) performance as Federico, Salvador's long lost love who shows up seeking connection and closure. Their compassionate reunion is short and bittersweet. It's enough to make anyone who has ever been in love wince with both happiness and pain as they close the book on their relationship. Another aspect of "Pain and Glory" that we loved is its use of unique visual and auditory elements to aid in its storytelling. José Luis Alcaine's stunning cinematography perfectly captures Mallo's/Almodóvar's childhood growing up and living in a cave in a tiny Spanish village. This is juxtaposed with his more prosperous life as an iconic director in Barcelona. Finally, Alberto Iglesias's score feels deliberately broken up into three distinct parts as Mallo flashes back to his past, lives distinctly in his present, and ponders about what is left to come in his pain-riddled life.
Photo: In the semi-autobiographical, Academy Award-nominated film "Pain and Glory," Salvador Mallo (Antonio Banderas) reunites with his long lost love, Federico Delgado (Leonardo Sbaraglia).
Photo: In the semi-autobiographical, Academy Award-nominated film "Pain and Glory," Salvador Mallo (Antonio Banderas) reunites with his long lost love, Federico Delgado (Leonardo Sbaraglia). (Image Source)
It's clear to us that "Pain and Glory" is a deeply intimate project/self-portrait for Pedro Almodóvar. It feels like it's his way of working through his personal demons and past regrets. His passion comes through in each and every frame. That being said, it does feel a bit long and, much like Almodóvar's life, unfinished (which is clearly on purpose since he's obviously still alive). As the film's credits abruptly began rolling, it felt like we had been watching it for a long time. On the other hand, we felt like we wanted to see more because Almodóvar has such a commanding way of telling his stories that we yearned for a conclusion from the narrative threads that were left dangling in uncertainty. Still, "Pain and Glory" is a superbly-crafted, touching feature anchored by several splendid performances and a couple of intensely personal, intimate moments we won't soon forget.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.6/10
RT Rating: 97%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Movie Review: "Bad Boys for Life" (2020)

Director: Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah
Year: 2020
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 4 minutes

Twenty-five years ago alllllllll the way back in 1995, director Michael Bay introduced the world to Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett in his dumb-but-slightly-fun-but-also-too-self-serious action flick "Bad Boys." Eight years later, in 2003, he followed it up with the much-longer-but-much-more-enjoyable-and-self-aware "Bad Boys II." 17 years have passed, and we have now finally gotten the third film in the franchise without Michael Bay in the director's chair. Maybe that's just what the series needed. "Bad Boys for Life" is directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah. "Bulletproof" Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) becomes the target of assassination when Isabel Aretas (Kate del Castillo), the wife of a deceased drug kingpin, escapes from prison in an extremely violent manner. She tasks her son, Armando (Jacob Scipio), to restart the family business and to kill Mike and everyone else who had a hand in destroying it years ago. While Mike wants to uncover who is behind this assassination plot, his longtime partner, Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence), is ready to hang up his badge and retire once and for all, especially now that he is a grandfather. While Marcus is on the bench, Mike gets teamed up with a young tactical team known as ASOC headed by his ex, Rita (Paola Nuñez), who, much to Mike's chagrin, is leading the investigation.
Photo: Martin Lawrence and Will Smith star in the 2020 film "Bad Boys for Life"
Photo: Martin Lawrence and Will Smith star in the 2020 film "Bad Boys for Life." (Image Source)
We have nothing against Michael Bay as a director. In fact, we have genuinely enjoyed some of his movies. Though we were never huge fans of the original "Bad Boys" film, we did think "Bad Boys II" was a decent watch. Sometimes, all you need is a new perspective to help make things click, and "Bad Boys for Life" absolutely clicks.

Will Smith remains his charming, suave, gun-and-gung-ho self and still looks like he's having a blast playing Mike Lowrey, even after all these years. Martin Lawrence has seemingly pushed through his personal troubles and has rediscovered his groove, bringing back the same brand of humor that made him such a hot commodity in the 90s. Smith and Lawrence reignite their dynamic chemistry in the first scene of this movie, and their hilarious banter and heartfelt brotherhood never let up once throughout the film.

Smith and Lawrence were never the problems with this series. The issues always stemmed from the lack of coherent, cohesive narratives. Under Michael Bay's tutelage, we feel like the audience was forced to suspend their disbelief one too many times. Adil and Bilall manage to bring that much-needed, much more consistent component to the franchise while still maintaining all of the explosions, car chases, and action we have come to expect from a Bay-helmed production. This is not to say the story here is perfect because it's not. It has its fair share of contrivances and cliched moments that might make your head spin (think: third act reveal, oy vey), but in all honesty, we were so entertained with what we were watching that we were able to forgive its flaws and enjoy it for the shockingly fun ride it was.

Another aspect of "Bad Boys for Life" that we like is the addition of the young ASOC team that counteracts the aging Lowrey (a man desperate to cling to his youth) and Burnett, who is at his full-on Danny Glover "I'm getting too old for this shit" "Lethal Weapon" phase. Charles Melton's character Rafe has a terrific playful rivalry with Mike that includes a lot of jokes about Mike's age, which frequently results in retorts about Rafe's mother (naturally!). Paola Nuñez's character Rita also has some great romantic tension with Smith's Lowrey. The two of them used to be in a relationship, and with Rita running the show, Mike's wants and desires for justice have to take a backseat to protocol and routine. Old standby Joe Pantoliano also returns as the Pepto Bismol-chugging, anxiety-riddled Captain Howard, and his routine with Lawrence and Smith hasn't lost its charm, either. Series newcomers Kate del Castillo and Jacob Scipio make for some vicious, wicked villains who seemingly have no remorse and want only to exact revenge on Mike for the wrongs he committed years ago.
Photo: Jacob Scipio and Kate del Castillo star as Isabel and Armando Aretas in "Bad Boys for Life," one of the best movies of 2020
Photo: Jacob Scipio and Kate del Castillo star as Isabel and Armando Aretas in "Bad Boys for Life" (2020). (Image Source)
"Bad Boys for Life" is our favorite movie in the "Bad Boys" series. We never in a million years thought we would say this, but if there should be a fourth installment in the "Bad Boys" franchise, we'll be there opening day with bells on. This is a total blast from start to finish.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.2/10
RT Rating: 76%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

TOP 10 WORST MOVIES OF 2019

Photo: collage of lololovesfilms's picks for the top 10 worst movies of 2019
We fully recognize that not every movie we see is going to be great, but some films are so bad that it bears repeating so other people don't have to suffer through them like we did.

Without further ado, here's our list of the TOP 10 WORST MOVIES OF 2019! Do you agree with this list? What were your least favorite films of 2019? Let us know, we'd love to compare!

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Movie Review: "The Gentlemen" (2020)

Director: Guy Ritchie
Year: 2020
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 53 minutes

Director Guy Ritchie has specialized in British gangster flicks since the beginning of his career. Even when he isn't supposed to be making a British gangster flick, he's still making a British gangster flick, but with characters like King Arthur or Sherlock Holmes inserted into them. With his latest film "The Gentlemen" (2020), Ritchie returns to his roots and make a film that is in the same vein as his breakthrough features "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" (1998) and "Snatch" (2000). The story revolves around an American-born British marijuana kingpin named Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey). Mickey is looking to break away from the drug game and wants to sell his business. His potential buyer is a man named Matthew (Jeremy Strong) who, despite being a criminal every bit as wicked as Mickey, has a much cleaner public persona, something Mickey lacks. Another person looking to take over Mickey's business is a gangster nicknamed Dry Eye (Henry Golding), who is tired of being a soldier in his own organization and is attempting a more hostile takeover. Dry Eye might not be acting on his own and might be taking orders from someone else, and private investigator Fletcher (Hugh Grant) believes he knows exactly who that is. Fletcher is willing to give that information to Mickey's right-hand man, Ray (Charlie Hunnam), for the right price.
Photo: Matthew McConaughey and Michelle Dockery star as Mickey and Rosalind Pearson in Guy Ritchie's 2020 film "The Gentlemen."
Photo: Matthew McConaughey and Michelle Dockery star as Mickey and Rosalind Pearson in Guy Ritchie's 2020 film "The Gentlemen." (Image Source)
"The Gentlemen" is everything you'd hope for and want a peak Guy Ritchie film to be. It is sleek, sharp, stylish, and loaded with unique characters cursing up a storm. This is a showcase of Ritchie at his best. He doesn't hold back and almost dares the audience to be offended by what is said and what he puts on screen. The movie opens with a bang and pulls us into the story from that point on. The narrative takes the audience down roads with lots of twists and turns, slowly peeling back the layers of the story like an onion until all is ultimately revealed. We will say that we did see some of the twists coming, but that doesn't mean the ride to get to the end was any less fun, raunchy, and bloody.

This movie wouldn't be as fun as it is without some great performances from the main actors playing each of their colorful characters. Our favorite performance came from Hugh Grant, the smarmy private investigator who gets hired to dig up dirt on Mickey by a tabloid newspaper, only to turn around and try and sell everything he has uncovered back to Mickey himself. Grant's character Fletcher feels like the R-rated version of one of his "Paddington 2" alter egos, and we loved every minute of his grandiose performance. Another standout for us was Colin Farrell as Coach, a literal fighting trainer to a group of young men who find themselves in heaps of trouble with Mickey. Coach eventually strikes a deal with Mickey to get his boys out of a jam, and what he's required to do to pay off this debt...well...it's a horrible riot. The over-the-top nature of Farrell and Grant's characters brings the most laughter and entertainment to the film, but we found all of the performances to be excellent.
Photo: Coach (Colin Farrell) and Ray (Charlie Hunnam) hear noises and look in the back of a car trunk in the movie "The Gentlemen" (2020).
Photo: Coach (Colin Farrell) and Ray (Charlie Hunnam) hear noises and look in the back of a car trunk in the movie "The Gentlemen" (2020).  (Image Source)
If you are in the mood for a sleek-looking, crime-riddled, fast-talking, wacky-but-fun British gangster flick, "The Gentlemen" (2020) is definitely worth checking out. Keep in mind, though, this movie is not for the easily offended.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: 8.1/10
RT Rating: 73%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Movie Review: "Angst" (1983)

Director: Gerald Kargl
Year: 1983
Rating: NR
Running Time: 1 hour, 27 minutes

Austrian director Gerald Kargl explores the mind of a psychopathic, sadistic killer in his one and only film "Angst" (1983). We guess if you're only going to make one movie, it's a good idea to make it as controversial as possible so it will live in infamy as a cult classic (special thanks to Gaspar Noé, who named it a favorite of his). This film is partially based on the exploits of Austrian mass murderer Werner Kniesek, who killed a family of three while on parole. Most of the talking in the film comes in the form of a voice-over monologue as the killer (Erwin Leder) explains what he thinks and how he feels as he is committing his crimes. This voice-over is meant to be an interview conducted with a psychiatrist who is determining if the murderer is mentally competent to stand trial. Much of the dialogue that is said is taken from actual quotes from the confessions of killers like the previously mentioned Kniesek, as well as notorious serial killer Peter Kurten, known as 'The Vampire of Dusseldorf.'
Photo: Erwin Leder stars as K., the Psychopath in the 1983 dramatic horror movie "Angst."
Photo: Erwin Leder stars as K., the Psychopath in the 1983 dramatic horror movie "Angst." (Image Source)
"Angst" (1983) is very frantic and grossly voyeuristic, anchored by an equally crazy, unsettling performance from Erwin Leder as the unnamed killer "K." We hear his inner thoughts and the meticulous planning of the murders only for nothing to work out as he imagined. K drips gobs of sweat, eats in a repellant manner, and we feel anxiety and general revulsion watching him go about his horrid business. The camera follows K around and is frequently fixed on him so he stays steady while the background frenetically shakes and moves behind him, putting us closer to the killer than we ever want to be. It almost makes us feel like we're taking part in his horrific crimes. The murders themselves are meant to look as realistic and as gritty as possible and are all the more disturbing as K fails to perform them as he imagined and is often forced to improvise poorly. K also receives some sort of sexual gratification from hurting and torturing others, making him particularly vile. This part of the film might be a hard line for some people, though Kargl does do a good job making K as disgusting as humanly possible and never absolves him of the awful things he does.
Photo: Edith Rosset's character Mother clings to her last breath in "Angst" (1983), a cult classic directed by Gerard Kargl.
Photo: Edith Rosset's character Mother clings to her last breath in "Angst" (1983), a cult classic directed by Gerard Kargl. (Image Source)
"Angst" (1983) isn't a movie we would call an enjoyable experience, and it sure isn't fun to watch, but it does manage to give a compellingly gross, repelling-but-artful look into the psyche of a killer. If Kargl set out to make one of the most unsettling dramatic murder thrillers, he kind of nailed it.

My Rating: 6.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.4/10
RT Rating: 100%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Movie Review: "A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon" (2019)

Director: Will Becher and Richard Phelan
Year: 2019
Rating: G
Running Time: 1 hour, 26 minutes

If we're looking for a high-quality stop-motion animated feature to watch, two studios come to mind. The first studio is Laika, who are known for their more mature, darkly-themed family entertainment like "Kubo and the Two Strings" and "ParaNorman." The other is Aardman Animations, a studio that offers lighter films targeted toward younger audiences like "Wallace and Gromit" and "Chicken Run" (though these films can, of course, still be enjoyed by adults). Aardman's latest stop-motion flick comes from first-time feature film directors Will Becher and Richard Phelan, who offer up a new story for a familiar character with Netflix's "A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon" (2020). When a spaceship lands on earth, the adorable, very hungry, very lost alien inside the ship shows up at Mossy Bottom Farms. When Shaun and his sheep pals discover the cute little critter, they befriend it, and Shaun takes it upon himself to help guide the alien back to its ship. The other sheep are tasked with keeping the rule-oriented Bitzer the dog distracted so Shaun and his new friend can leave the farm. Bitzer isn't the only thing Shaun and his new extraterrestrial buddy have to worry about. It turns out, a secret government agency is also looking for the lost alien, and they plan on capturing it before it has a chance to leave earth.
Bitzer the dog scolds Shaun the Sheep for playing frisbee in a photo for the Netflix movie "Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon" (2020).
Bitzer the dog scolds Shaun the Sheep for playing frisbee in a photo for the Netflix movie "Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon" (2020). (Photo provided by Netflix)
We have to admit, we were a little disappointed by Aardman's last film "Early Man." We did, however, enjoy the previous "Shaun the Sheep Movie," even though we aren't frequent viewers of the series. People who aren't familiar with Shaun the Sheep should know going in that his movies contain little to no dialogue. To us, that's part of their charm! Most of the characters speak in noises, grunts, and quizzical moans. The only being who comes anywhere close to speaking is the newly introduced blue-and-purple-dog-like-alien-creature Lu-La, who uses the phrase "zoom zoom!" to help describe its ship. Even though the characters aren't explicitly speaking, we get what they mean, and we can understand them because of their body language and facial expressions.

"Farmageddon" is a pleasant, engaging, silly, charming, visually-told narrative that we had a blast watching. We instantly fell in love with Lu-La and all of her food-chomping antics. She and Shaun get up to some wild, out-of-this-world (literally!) shenanigans in this installment. It's clear that this movie draws a lot of inspiration from "E.T.," and the filmmakers don't try to hide it. They throw in many references to Steven Spielberg's works throughout the story, including nods to at least "Jaws" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." These little touches will help the adults in the crowd stay interested in between bouts of slapstick, pizza jokes, and UFO amusement park gags. As a whole, the story is pretty familiar. We've seen sci-fi exploration/"getting a child home to their parents" scenarios play out in animated films for decades, but that doesn't make this tale any less fun to watch. It's full of bright, vibrant, beautifully animated settings, characters, and frames that come together seamlessly. We hold stop-motion animators in such high regard. The sheer amount of work put into each and every detail is remarkable. The final product is aesthetically pleasing, heartwarming, and compassionate.
In "A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon," Shaun the Sheep and an alien named Lu-La enter zero gravity in a spaceship full of pizzas
In "A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon," Shaun the Sheep and an alien named Lu-La enter zero gravity in a spaceship full of pizzas. (Photo provided by Netflix)
While the story might be simple and the jokes might be a bit predictable, we think the stunning animation, the funny jokes, and the solid message about friendship and empathy towards others makes Netflix's "A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon" (2020) worth checking out via the streaming giant on February 14th, 2020. It put huge smiles on our faces, and we had oodles of fun watching it.

My Rating: 7.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.0/10
RT Rating: 98%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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