Quick Movie Review: This Is Where I Leave You

thisiswhereileaveyou

While this isn’t an amazing film, it’s not a terrible one either–far from it. The cast is great and the depth is there–albeit deceivingly–but I just simply couldn’t relate. And it’s not like I can’t enjoy a film that I don’t relate to, but it was a little more difficult since there wasn’t anything else to sink my teeth into other than the personal lives of the characters. I suppose that I would have gotten a lot more out of this film if I came from a dysfunctional family and if my life was a mess.

And although there was a fairly original sense of humor that evoked genuine laughs, the drama isn’t anything I haven’t seen before–and at times, a little bit over-the-top.

However, it’s not completely pointless. It presents some great takeaway lessons about dealing with a sucky time in your life. And if nothing else, it makes you feel better about the good things you have going for you in your own life by comparing it to those of the characters in the movie.

Overall, this is a movie that really does suck you in and you appreciate it for its genuineness. You never feel like the characters reactions are unrealistic, and the 3rd act doesn’t try and force cliche conclusions for each character. And that is why you can applaud it in the end.

Twizard Rating: 76

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Quick Movie Review: The Maze Runner

mazerunner

Here it is, another dystopian teen movie. But this time it forces us to pay more attention to details and isn’t as obviously formulaic. There are no unnecessary subplots–especially of the romantic variety–and the villain is a mystery up until the end. It doesn’t “artistically” give itself an open-ended conclusion, instead it wisely allows us to see what happens afterwards. However, it still leaves us with questions. I know there is a sequel, but there is too many things to scratch your head about. It answers the question of “what” but it failed to really satisfy us with “why” or “how”. The mystery is what keeps you going, and it will succeed at keeping your interest the whole time, but what they find out in the end isn’t as pleasing as one would hope.

My only real criticism here is with the script. Within the first 20 minutes I was impressed that they had covered the audience’s questions thoroughly and early on without making us sit through another mystery altogether. Sometimes in films it’s the wise–but seemingly taboo–thing to do to answer the viewers’ questions by means of the main character having a Q & A with a more informed character. This was one of those times. But then as the film progresses I realize that the information that I thought I knew was being contradicted and had been explained poorly.

I was loving this movie and couldn’t wait for the revelation at the end, but when I got there it wasn’t as clear as I had wanted it to be and it left me with even more questions. How does this test show why the kids are resistant? Why was one kid sent up only every month? Why were there just boys and not girls? How did Gally find his way through the tunnels at the end? Why did Thomas only remember certain things but not everything? Why did they bring Alby back from the maze if he was infected? Why doesn’t Thomas stay hidden in the ivy during his first experience in the maze? I expected my mind to be blown, but what I got more than anything was more questions.

The Maze Runner is very intriguing and it doesn’t feel as YA-fiction as it probably is. If it wasn’t for the last 10 minutes this movie would be one of the best I’ve seen all year. The script isn’t perfect and it’s a little short on character depth, but you really can’t complain when a movie continues to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Twizard Rating: 91

Quick Movie Review: They Came Together

they came together

It’s very obvious what this film is trying to do. As a romantic comedy satire, it’s like a highbrow Leslie Nielsen movie. The cast is great and overall it’s for a more pretentious audience. Nielsen’s films were just simply for laughs, but this one wants to have a deeper message–and I think gets its point across well.

But in comedies we like to find some comfort knowing that they style of humor won’t be all over the board. We want consistency and reliability. Some jokes were amazingly funny and some were simply there to gross us out. And those of the latter variety created a jarring inconsistency in the tone and made the humor unpredictable. They didn’t fit, and there weren’t enough of them in there to make the film a true gross-out comedy either. Therefore the erraticism of those jokes make us feel even more uncomfortable than the actual jokes themselves. And any of them could have been easily fixed by not making them go on for as long. And if this film’s purpose was to have a deeper message, these jokes pop up every once in awhile and make the film less highbrow than what it’s aiming for and actually turns into a Scary Movie type of film.

However, throughout all the irreverence and ridiculousness, you’re strangely still invested in these characters. And in the end the message is sincere in that not all of these rom-coms feature seemingly perfect endings, while we never see what happens afterwards. Will they stay together or drift apart? We get too blinded by our emotions to think about it usually. Romeo and Juliet seem perfectly in love, but if they hadn’t died maybe they would have ended up realizing that they weren’t soul mates after all.

I like this film for everything except for the few inconsistent jokes. I’ll try to see past that.

Twizard Rating: 80

Quick Movie Review: Dolphin Tale

dolphin tale

It seems like this would be the type of movie that we’d see at Wal-Mart and ask ourselves why we hadn’t heard of it before, but then realizing it’s because it was a straight-to-DVD release. This isn’t that movie. It’s still a little cheesy at parts, but it gets down to business and commits to its themes all the way.

There may be a lot of subplots, but they all connect with each other and don’t ever feel forced. There’s also no unrealistic antagonists (or bullies) that are typical of these family films, and there’s no unnecessary love story to evoke our most vulnerable senses. The filmmakers are so aware of themselves and so careful not to make us roll our eyes that we can’t help but be gracious.

Although the message is pretty much laid out on the table, it preaches them in a ways that we can all relate to. It reassures us that everything happens for a reason, and teaches us how we can take our misfortune and use it to help others instead of worrying about what it’s hindering us from doing.

The two young leads do a great job with this one–especially Nathan Gamble who grasps his character’s juxtaposition of character and does well showing us how he develops throughout the film.

I’ve said it before that there is a shortage of non-animated family films these days. This is one of the best ones from recent years.

Twizard Rating: 90

Quick Movie Review: Chef

chef

Finally! All summer long I’ve been waiting for this! Let me just say that this summer has been terrible for film–with the exception of maybe 3 movies. And with the batch that have been coming out lately, I needed a pick-me-up movie that would get me back into wanting to go to the cinema again. And here it is in all it’s glory–a film that isn’t as simple as it may seem. It’s not just a story about a Chef trying to rediscover himself, but it’s a film that beautifully exhibits the happy medium between the old and the new generations’ views on technology and orchestrates perfectly how neither ideal is to be shoved aside as we need both schools to get by in life.

Along with a great cast and an amazing soundtrack, I love the subtle humor. It doesn’t realize how funny it is, which makes it that much funnier.

As for the negative, a disjointing detail about Robert Downey Jr.’s character being Inez’ ex-husband wasn’t really made clear prior to his appearance, but it’s only distracting for that one scene. Also, because the first half of the movie is such a riot, everything after that may seem like it’s taking its time. But even though it slows down towards the end, it’s still entertaining and satisfying as we get to see a mini-roadtrip and a great father-son development.

Although it may not set the world on fire with innovative results, Chef is a thoroughly pleasing movie that you will be bobbing your head to. It’s predictable, but in the best possible way.

Twizard Rating: 94

Quick Movie Review: Army of Darkness (1993)

In Army of Darkness, I found myself laughing more and wanting it to end less than the previous two films. But much like Evil Dead II, the comedy lacks character and individuality. There are different types of comedy–all sorts–but these films aren’t quite sure of which type they are. I’d say the closest it comes to is satire. However, it doesn’t satirize the aspects that it should be half the time. And although the humor is more apparent and deliberate in this movie, I still wasn’t laughing out loud as much as I wanted to.

Overall, this film is actually enjoyable for me, compared to the other two which are more eye rolling than anything else. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and the tone is a little less intermittent. I love how Ash finally becomes the hero that we’ve wanted him to be since the very beginning. He is cooler than ever and chock full of great one-liners. But with that said, I still can’t seem to get attached to his character as much as I want to.

As it’s not so much a horror as it is an action-comedy, Army of Darkness should still please fans of the first two films.

Twizard Rating: 67

Quick Movie Review: If I Stay

After watching such gems, like The Spectacular Now, which hit the nail of teenage romance right on the head, we become picky about what we want to see in terms of that genre. And while comparing the relationships in the two films and trumping one over the other, it’s hard to take the love story between Mia and Adam as serious. Not that they don’t deserve our attention, but much of it seems superficial–at least at first. The cliches are abundant and their relationship doesn’t get real until almost an hour into the movie. But it’s never a natural build-up. Instead, the issues arrive very abruptly–which I guess can happen when two lovers are living in a state of plutonic bliss. Then once it does delve deeper into their romance, it feels like it’s running around in circles, not really tapping into the long distance struggle as much as it could. 

But maybe I just keep getting annoyed with Adam (Jamie Blackley) as a character. He is created too easy to like. Everything he says is “perfect” and “suave” and we aren’t really allowed to form our own opinions about him, rather than seeing him as perfect at first, while unveiling his flaws as the film progresses. But each of his “flaws” (in quotes because they’re never ever stressed) are always quickly forgotten about due to a romantic gesture he does a couple scenes later.

The overlying plot of this film is two people being in love, yet each wanting to follow their respective dreams which would bring them further apart. Given that it’s based off of a book that aims towards preteen and teenage girls, If I Stay definitely does present these ideas with a mature outlook. However, it doesn’t present ENOUGH aspects of this struggle to really understand what’s going on in the character’s heads. Everything is apparent and on the surface. Although, the performances–especially that of Chloe Grace Moretz–make the inner and outer struggles way more convincing. 

Although more mature than its target audience, If I Stay is predictable as ever and may succumb to cheap teenage angst that may have you rolling your eyes. However, how the two plots interlock is very unique and satisfying in the end, and the beautiful songs make for an entertaining film at the very least. And while it did evoke misty eyes, I just wish the plot didn’t feel so repetitive.

Twizard Rating: 79

Quick Movie Review: When the Game Stands Tall

It may be full of cliches and corniness, but you can’t help but love this movie’s heart. It stays true to itself and its story the whole time and never overuses its elements. The film’s theme of not being about the individuals, but about the team, is displayed no better than during the credits when it doesn’t pamper us with a “where are they now” segment. 

While the balance between each subplot could have been a little bit smoother, the way the film starts at the end of one season and transitions to a newer squad come the following season is unique. If you don’t know the story you won’t see where it’s all going–although that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t get predictable at times.

It’s more spiritual than your average sports film, but never comes off as preachy. While it takes notes from Coach Carter (my favorite sports movie) it keeps its own identity–which is unavoidable when talking about a true story that’s as unique as this one.

A lot of the time movies like this come off as pseudo-insightful, but this one is a lot deeper than you’re going to expect. And the story never gets buried under the fluff. Sure I agree that it could have had a better title, but When the Game Stands Tall is moving for anyone who was a part of a sports team.

Twizard Rating: 90

Quick Movie Review: Evil Dead II

While an improvement on its predecessor with a better backstory, I still found myself shaking my head quite often. Why is every character in these movies so annoying? They’re always acting dumb and irrational. And although some of you may argue it, I don’t think it’s as intentional as you think it is. I know this “sequel” is supposed to partially be a comedy but it evokes more eye rolling than laughter. Although I do appreciate a good slapstick, the gore is constantly taking away from whatever humor is being presented.

I’m still not on board with this series, however, the art and effects are still very impressive and I enjoyed the creative call-back ending.

Twizard Rating: 59

Quick Movie Review: Get On Up

I love James Brown’s music as much as the next guy, but let’s face it, he really wasn’t that great of a person. He may be one of the most influential 20th century artists, but he was selfish, had a huge ego, and didn’t seem to care about anyone in his life. But unlike most stories where the main character develops and realizes his mistakes, James Brown in Get On Up never seems to. He never changes his ways. And unlike most biopics, this one fails to really take a stand on whether or not it wants to glorify or vilify its main character. But it’s not like The Social Network or Goodfellas where it feels intentional. And in the Jobs biopic, although we may not have liked the protagonist a whole lot, there was no doubt that the purpose of the movie was to glorify him. Here, it seems as if the filmmakers never made it a conscious decision. They want us to love the guy–it’s obvious–but instead they focused too much on just telling a story.  

The main issues lie within the pacing. It just spits events at you instead of letting them happen naturally to the surprise of the audience. The drama is often rushed too quickly to get to the characters’ reactions sooner. This may have been done to shorten the runtime, but it makes us subconsciously belittle these events in our heads. 

And while Chadwick Boseman is an absolute genius as James Brown, the character’s demeanor is frustratingly unpredictable. He doesn’t develop or learn much of anything–but of course this isn’t the film’s fault. If nothing else, it tells the story of Brown and explains why he was how he was. It accurately portrays the rise and fall of the man, but isn’t as big as it could have been. It chooses to glorify him over showing that he really just spiraled downward to the end. Then, during the last 15 minutes, it makes the movie all about Brown’s relationship with Bobby Byrd, which seems like an afterthought after the filmmakers realize that this was the only redeeming factor about this guy’s life.

It’s an entertaining film and the music is expectedly great, but it’s Boseman that makes you like this movie.

Just because someone is influential doesn’t mean we must rush to make a biographical film about them. I mean, Einstein still hasn’t received the proper treatment. But nonetheless, it happens quite often these days and we should just think of them as a quicker alternative to a book.

Twizard Rating: 82