Quick Movie Review: Bad Moms (2016)

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Usually modern comedies have a difficult time building any kind of depth without either feeling forced or sacrificing its sense of humor in the process. Bad Moms, with the help of its strong cast, knows how to work around this.

While it’s not some highbrow character study, it shows all sides of the situation without making it obvious that it’s using a traditional path to get there.

Bad Moms stars Mila Kunis as Amy, a mother of two who gets absolutely no help from her husband, who apparently likes the dog more than his own kids.

Christina Applegate plays Amy’s antagonist, Gwendolyn, who is president of the PTA and doesn’t allow anything with sugar at the school’s bake sale. Amy doesn’t buy into her philosophies, nor her manipulation tactics, which causes Gwendolyn to try and ruin Amy’s life. Applegate does an excellent job of making the audience despise her, while countering Kunis’ charismatic charm.

Amy pairs up with two other mothers who are on the same page as her. They’re played by Kathryn Hahn and Kristen Bell. The former is always under-appreciated in comedic roles, while the latter is totally unrecognizable as a pushover and naive mother.

It’s truly the cast that helps carry this film so well. No character is a wash or unnecessary.

And the jokes are consistent. They run all along the whole film without ever growing tiresome. Each joke is as fresh as the last–and there is a true sense of cohesion amongst it all. No bit seems out of place.

The only thing wrong? The film portrays every husband as useless. Literally. Not one husband in the film is even a little bit competent at being a father or spouse. I guess it bodes well for the film’s target audience, but it may alienate some men out there.

But regardless, I still found the movie highly entertaining and one that I would watch over and over again.

Twizard Rating: 91

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Quick Movie Review: Sausage Party (2016)

sausage party

The animation is easy to watch with its unique look and feel, and the grocery puns are usually very clever and well thought-out, but besides that, Sausage Party is more gag-inducing than funny. And you can’t help but think that it’s merely for shock value.

As thought-provoking as it intends to be, it’s mostly in vain due to its irreverence. The items in a grocery store are all brainwashed to believe that humans are their gods, and that they must be “chosen” to reach the Great Beyond–which is unknown to any of them at the time.

It’s led by a sausage, Frank (Seth Rogen), who is slowly discovering the truth–that humans aren’t gods, but monsters set out to murder all of them–but no one will listen to him. The storyline has promise, but much of the time is spent on extraneous sex jokes, for the sheer purpose of having sex jokes made by pieces of food.

It has its moments, but you spend too much time cringing or laughing out of discomfort. And even within the ridiculous logic of the film, certain things still don’t always make sense.

Certain characters are enjoyable, like a chewed up piece of gum who cannot die because he’s a piece of gum. But on the other hand, there’s a villain (besides the humans) whose motives are foggy and entirely unconvincing.

Honestly, the film’s strongest aspect is making us truly want to know how it will end. But when it does, you’re still not completely satisfied.

Twizard Rating: 63

Quick Movie Review: Nerve (2016)

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Since the dawn of the internet and smart phones, films have tried to relate to the generation that’s so engulfed in the technology. From the guy in his 30s trading on Wall Street to the teenage girl who can’t seem to separate herself from Snapchat or Instagram. Many have tried, and few have succeeded. Most are done in a way that comes off as a little too pushy or polemic. Others use it as a devise to make the film look more attractive to a younger demographic. Either way, it’s always seemed as though it was the technology that was propelling the stories–almost forcing them upon us.

Right off the bat, the concept of Nerve may have you thinking the same thing, but its premise is much more relaxed. And where it isn’t, it’s more subtle than its contemporaries. Nerve is, all around, more mature with its subject matter.

It stars Emma Roberts as Vee, an artistic high school senior who’s best friend, Sydney (Emily Meade), thinks she doesn’t live uninhibitedly enough. Then there’s this secret game/app which the user can choose to be either a watcher or a player. As a player, you have to complete tasks, or “dares”, for money. The two who last the longest without giving up go to the finals.

The rules of the game take much of the film to get a grasp on, but it makes sense when it needs to.

Along the way, Vee meets Ian (Dave Franco)–another player. The watchers like the two of them together and keep giving them tasks to complete with each other.

The audience should also like them together, since they have a natural chemistry, which helps us see past some of the streaky performances.

The film bounces around between different characters in the story seamlessly without losing us, or its energy, in the process.

At no point do you look down at your watch wondering when the film will be over. It keeps you in its grasp the whole time. And afterward, you’ll be talking with others about hypotheticals if the app actually existed in real life.

You will definitely be surprised by this film, despite any preconceived notions. It’s one of the best we’ve seen in this “techno” subgenre. Maybe by now we’ve gotten over the newness of our devices and can finally get a real film that actually takes control of the technology within it, rather than the other way around.

Twizard Rating: 91

Quick Movie Review: Pete’s Dragon (2016)

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The original 1977 Pete’s Dragon is one of my favorite Disney movies from my childhood, and based on Disney’s job with the new Jungle Book, I had high hopes for this one.

This is an impressive re-imagining, although it’s much different than the orignial. The tone isn’t quite as dark, and gone are the themes of alcoholism and abuse. This one is about magic and believing in something without seeing it.

Director, David Lowery wanted this film to stand on its own apart from the original. Keeping true to his goal, there are basically zero nods to its source material.

It’s practically a remake in name only–with the exception of the 2 lead characters, Pete and Elliot. But not to worry, because it still hangs on to the spirit of its predecessor.

The film opens up with a young boy, Pete (Oakes Fegley), becoming abandoned in the forest after a car crash kills his parents. Elliot, a giant green dragon, takes him in and the two become best friends.

It’s one of the best friendships in recent film history, and a lot of emotion is drawn out of both Pete and Elliot by Lowery. It’s not a film where the emotion tries to manipulate you. It’s naturally charged.

Fegley is excellent as Pete. He’s not overly precocious or coy. And the supporting cast, including Bryce Dallas Howard, Karl Urban, and Wes Bentley, fills in the gaps around him nicely.

Pete’s Dragon doesn’t take itself too seriously. For a family film, it understands humor, and the jokes never come off as childish.

At times, things in the film are taken slowly. This isn’t a bad thing at all. Throughout the whole movie, you won’t see any 21st century technology. Even the cars are ambiguously dated. It’s to keep the time period vague, but it’s also to compliment the film’s philosophy on exploration and adventure.

But the heart of the film is the relationship between Pete and Elliot.

It’s emotional. I didn’t just cry. I balled my eyes out. Anyone who’s had an animal as a best friend will get this movie just a little bit more.

It’s a simple film. Which proves even more how good it is. If a film is this simple without being boring, you know the filmmakers are doing something right.

Twizard Rating: 100

Quick Movie Review: Pete’s Dragon (1977)

pete's dragon1977

Pete’s Dragon was my favorite Disney movie when I was growing up, but I hadn’t watched it since I was little. Recently, I’ve revisited many films I loved as a child only to be disappointed by them. So naturally, I was afraid the same was going to happen to the one I loved the most.

The film is about a boy, Pete, who has escaped with his dragon, Elliot, from his abusive foster family. The two of them come to the town of Passamaquoddy, where they meet a lighthouse owner, Nora (Helen Reddy) and her father, played by Mickey Rooney.

As far as the music goes, the songs are some of Disney’s best. It’s hard to point out highlights, since all of them are so memorable. My favorite might be the film’s first song, “The Happiest Home in These Hills,” which is as memorable of an opening as could be. They say that in most films, the part you remember the least is the beginning. But in Pete’s Dragon, it’s one of the best scenes. The choreography and the creepiness of Pete’s orphan family chasing him through the swampy forest is still ingrained in my head all these years later and sets the tone for the rest of the film.

But the dark tone shifts a lot throughout and we end up getting more of a campy musical feel the rest of the way out. But at least that’s what it wants to be.

Elliot, the dragon, is as adorable as any Disney character. He brightens up the screen whenever he’s on it. In fact, the biggest problem is probably the fact that he only gets 22 minutes of total screen time in a movie that’s 134 minutes.

It’s still better than the original plan, which was to have him absent in the movie altogether. Instead, remaining in Pete’s imagination only. What we get is better than nothing.

Most films back then aren’t without their issues, and neither is Pete’s Dragon. It has its fair share of plot holes. It doesn’t make much sense why Pete waits almost the entire movie to show Elliot to Nora. He has no reason to hide him from her. But if you throw in nostalgia, these things don’t really matter as much.

It’s a fun movie. Kids will enjoy it, and it’s completely tolerable for adults.

Twizard Rating: 92

Quick Movie Review: Jason Bourne (2016)

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Being a fan of the Bourne series may or may not determine whether you like this new installment. Jason Bourne (the film) boasts much of the same formula from the series’ first 3 films, yet doesn’t give us a whole lot of new direction.

We left off in the last one with Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) finding out his real name and finally remembering joining the Treadstone program. Here, it’s 10 years later and he’s been living off the grid. Resurfacing for miscellaneous reasons, he’s now trying to figure out even more about his past.

This one offers us something that the previous films don’t really give us: a twist. It’s a pretty decent one, too.

We also get some interesting new characters. A CIA director, Robert Dewey, played by the always-respectable Tommy Lee Jones. Jones gives us a CIA villain to truly despise. He’s so believably evil, that he makes the film just about as much as Damon does.

And while director Paul Greengrass creates a film that could be mistaken for any one of its predecessors (which is a good thing), we’re hoping for a little bit more than just finding out more about Jason Bourne’s past–something that could probably have been covered in The Bourne Ultimatum.

It’s not that Bourne’s character has no depth, it’s just that we’ve already seen it all in the previous 3 films. There’s not much left to discover about his personality. And basically nothing new added here.

Oh yeah, and there was this whole fourth movie featuring Jeremy Renner, called The Bourne Legacy, which was basically not touched on at all in this film. The thing I was most excited about was getting a follow-up to a cliffhanger-filled movie.

But we don’t. However, one can still hope that this sets up a neat tie-in between the two stories.

There is one moment, however, where we actually consider that Jason Bourne’s death is possible. It’s probably the only moment (besides the end of Ultimatum) where we think this.

Though many might consider this new film unnecessary, it’s still just about as entertaining as the best unnecessary films out there.

Twizard Rating: 86

Quick Movie Review: The Bourne Legacy (2012)

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Bourne Legacy gives us a lot of good for being sans Matt Damon. Jeremy Renner holds his own very well and proves he can be a leading man in a blockbuster.

Starting off prior to the events of The Bourne Ultimatum, Legacy finds Jeremy Renner’s character in the Alaskan wilderness, being hunted by a pack of wolves. Then, all of a sudden, he discovers that a drone is trying to blow him up.

Eventually, the film moves past Ultimatum and becomes about another secret government agency. They’re feeling threatened by Jason Bourne’s uprising and trying to kill their own assets before they have the chance to retaliate.

The biggest issue with this film is that it tries to be cryptic. It’s capable of telling us what’s going on, but chooses not to–which can be frustrating when watching a movie. You can tell that these events are opening the door to something cool in the series, but it just doesn’t let us figure out what that is until later.

Often times, we find ourselves scratching our heads, hoping that it all ties together in the end. And it does for the most part. But even when things click, it means nothing of value. You just accept it and hope it will make sense in the next film.

We’re also never entirely sure how it all connects to the Bourne series–other than the same people are involved. But the glimmering hope that it’s going to open the series up to something grander–the bigger picture–makes every piece of this film intriguing.

Regardless of the mysterious plot, it’s really entertaining. The action and chase sequences are high-quality, and there are some really intense scenes. It’s all fun in the end.

Twizard Rating: 85

Quick Movie Review: Suicide Squad (2016)

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My first thought when going to see this movie was, “It’s not rated ‘R’??” It’s such a dark and macabre film. A superhero movie to change all the rules of superhero movies. And while it almost does, it’s difficult to do so when you go for a PG-13 rating. Although, I understand why. Widening your audience means more butts in the seats. And those who would want it to be rated R will probably still think it’s rated R.

After the death of Superman, US intelligence agent, Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), wants to put together a team of criminals to go on dangerous missions at no risk, since they’re seen as expendable.

Of the ensemble cast, the bigger names consist of Will Smith as the hit man, Deadshot, Margot Robbie as The Joker’s girlfriend, Harley Quinn, and Jared Leto as The Joker, himself.

I’d like to preface this all by saying I enjoyed the film. It’s not terrible. I’d watch it again, and probably even buy it on DVD. It does a lot of things right, but it’s not without its fair share of hiccups.

You can’t help but notice that the DC cinematic universe is always playing catch-up to the Marvel one. And it doesn’t have to. This was its chance to do something totally different. And in some ways it does–or at least, sets itself up to in the future. But the random interjections of jokes amidst action scenes don’t feel fluid, but forced. DC is supposed to be much darker and less tongue-in-cheek. Less quippy.

DC, in some sense, has far more interesting and unique characters–especially villains–than Marvel. They’ve grown to be more twisted over the years, and this film tries to use that to its advantage, but it just doesn’t always work.

That’s not to say it never does. This year’s Batman v Superman film uses cheesy filters to make it feel dark. In Suicide Squad it’s more convincing. It’s dark. Really dark. But you can’t help feel like the film is torn between sinister and cartoony. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy succeeds at this perfectly. But Suicide Squad is trying to be both Dark Knight and Avengers at the same time. I’m not so sure that’s possible.

It could have benefitted from being more serious. The film starts out comfortably fitting into its own universe, but the random bits of levity are often jarring, making it seem like the film is trying to be as appealing to its more popular contemporary. Yet, it never has to. The material is great on its own. And we won’t blame writer-director David Ayer, because apparently, it was the studio who demanded there be more humor scattered throughout.

This is what Marvel does very well. In the Avengers films, entire scenes don’t come to a grinding halt whenever Iron Man says something funny. The humor blends into the action. It doesn’t combat it. Here, the action scenes were the only times the film was free of jokes.

And we don’t mind levity. However, in this scenario, the jokes should have been darker–not cuter. But with Robbie delivering them, that’s what you get.

They seem to want her to be the focal point of the laughs, but I just wanted her to stop. You don’t always buy in to her jokes, and she just ends up getting annoying. Smith, however, is the unsung comedic talent of the film. His timing is as good as ever and it never feels forced–fitting into the Marvel vibe they’re going for.

Leto as The Joker was perfect because he wasn’t overexposed. Every time we see him, he’s gone moments later, making us want more. Robbie is in almost the entire film. You’re supposed to love her antihero, but you never really do. Not enough is given to us. We end up just feeling indifferent.

There’s a scene towards the beginning of the film where Davis’ character is sitting down at a table, explaining one-by-one the backstory of each character. it takes about 10 minutes and freezes any plot progression that’s going on. The normal version of me would have hated this in any other situation, but it may be the best part of this movie. We’re being introduced to these interesting, complex, deranged characters. We get get excited about what’s to come. The filmmakers want us to fall in love with these antiheroes, but this is the only time it truly lets us.

Despite the lack of action sequences, the pacing’s fairly good, and the film is entertaining everywhere else. However, it has a long way to go to be considered great.

I really want these new DC films to be of the best quality, but I fear that they can’t. Not as long as they’re too preoccupied with trying to be Marvel. Honestly, if I never saw another Marvel film again, I wouldn’t be devastated. It’s time for something new, and DC can give us that. They almost had it here.

Twizard Rating: 78

Quick Movie Review: The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

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To some, shaky-cam has become synonymous with low quality. But not the way Paul Greengrass does is. The director doesn’t just do shaky-cam–he masters it. Every single movement is perfected and deliberate so that during fight scenes, we still know exactly what’s happening all while getting the feeling that we’re involved.

The pacing is pretty much perfect in the third installment of the spy-thriller series. We pick up weeks after the events of its predecessor, and Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is still trying to figure out his forgotten past. The secret CIA program which was once called Operation Treadstone is essentially the same, except operating under the name of Blackbriar.

Dipping and dodging different assassins, Bourne is one step closer to finding out how he became an important piece in all this. But this time, there’s more desperation. More urgency. He knows he could be dead at any moment and possibly should have been dead already. But he’s not and he doesn’t know how much longer he can cheat death. We feel it too. We want him to find everything out before he gets killed.

It’s this energy that runs all through The Bourne Ultimatum that keeps you on the edge of your seat the entire time.

Bourne’s character depth doesn’t really progress anywhere from the last film, but we don’t really feel like it needs to. He doesn’t say much, but we can read his thoughts much of the time.

In the end, we’re relieved, but not necessarily satisfied. There is still more to be found out. Although in the moment, we aren’t aware that there will be more sequels to come. We just hope that there are.

Twizard Rating: 95

Quick Movie Review: Star Trek Beyond (2016)

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I guess in this day and age, we expect things in trilogies–or serials at least. But Star Trek Beyond isn’t that. There isn’t a lot of story tie-ins from the previous two films. It’s just the same crew–albeit a little more mature and a little wiser–on a brand new mission.

And as much as part of me wishes that it was like all the other blockbuster franchises these days, I can appreciate the solidarity.

Chris Pine looks like he fits the Captain Kirk mold better than ever as he’s debating whether or not he should leave the Enterprise and take a promotion as Vice Admiral–meaning he would be permanently grounded.

The first 30 minutes are fairly slow, as the film is catching us up with these characters, bringing us to the point where they want us to be.

Then, all of a sudden, the Enterprise ship is ambushed and all but destroyed, killing much of the crew and leaving the rest stranded on some Earth-like planet run by Krall–who’s out to seek revenge on the Federation for unknown reasons.

They actually happen to be very good reasons, but we don’t know them until almost the end of the film. Up until that point, Krall just seems like another generic bad guy with unclear motives–which can come off as convoluted, and even frustrating at times.

But once the ending hits, you realize what’s happening and acknowledge to yourself that it was worth the journey. Even if it’s perhaps because you want it to have been.

The franchise is no longer directed by J.J. Abrams, but he’s still signed on as producer. Instead, it’s directed by Justin Lin–known for many Fast and Furious films. And Beyond has him written all over it. Just the increase in shaky-cam alone.

But I really enjoyed the film. It’s not as well-organized as Abrams’ previous 2 installments, but it’s fun and intriguing and has you on the edge of your seat. I’m excited to see what’s next.

Twizard Rating: 91