Gringo

Gringo had something funny occur with their PR screening ahead of time. Our screening wasn’t until the week of release, like normal, but they actually sent out the real invite for it over a month early. Now, normally, these invites are a week to two max early. If any earlier, we get save the date notes or whatever to let you know it is coming up, but this was just the regular invite to respond to for RSVP purposes.

So of course I accepted, and the only reason it is much later a review is because I was sick that day, couldn’t go, and had to watch it weeks later in the theaters. I wanted to see Gringo, it looked fun, and sure, it had a plug on The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale. Let that be a lesson for you, advertising can work. Why else would I still be using old spice body wash every day?

Gringo has an interesting name, given what I think I know what it means, and that we had a film awhile ago called Get The Gringo, which was also a bit better than anticipated. I had high hopes for Gringo given it setting, its very fun looking cast, and of course, because of Mr. Copley adding his own weird style.

WHich One
Which one is the gringo though, really?

Our story is about Harold Soyinka (David Oyelowo), a man who never can catch a break. He has a high job in a pharmaceutical company,but he isn’t rolling in the dough like the people in the higher levels. His wife (Thandie Newton) is an interior decorator, but only has one client and is bleeding their money. His boss (Joel Edgerton), is a hardass, a dickwad, and all of the body parts between those two. But he makes that money, he is good friends with Harold, and he got him the job in the first place.

Harold has to work and travel to Mexico frequently for their job, where they have the pharmaceutical factory set up. They are making a weed pill, so to speak, so that when America starts lifting those bans, they will have the product and infrastructure in place to take advantage of the now open market.

Because we are talking about drugs and Mexico, it should be obvious that the Cartel is also involved. Harold doesn’t know about that of course, he is a good guy, but when dealing with his boss’s mistakes, he is about to see how little he matters in the grand scheme of events.

Also starring Carlos Corona, Alan Ruck, Kenneth Choi, Sharlto Copley, Charlize Theron, Melonie Diaz, Amanda Seyfried, Harry Treadaway, and Yul Vazquez.

GOT HIM
Ooooh, looks like they finally GOT THE GRINGO! Oh, wrong movie. Sorry.

Gringo is an example of a story with a lot of separate plot lines amongst the characters, where no one character is sure of what is actually going on, and all the chaos that occurs from these miscommunications and lies. But also, with death, violence, and comedy. So yeah, going for a Taratino film feel.

Out of all the many cast members, the only one to really shine is our star, Oyelowo, who seems to have perfected that scream freak out look that he gets to do over and over in the film as he continues to get shit upon. Because that is the movie. Bad things happening to his character, despite being a relatively good guy, and him never getting out of his situation.

If you hate crazy plot lines, you still might enjoy it for Oyelowo’s performance, where he seemed to show a different side of him. A more excited side, compared to more of his very serious roles recently.

The movie did feel quite long, given the twists and turns along the way. And hey, I didn’t know where it was going most of the time. So it was a surprising thrill ride that did still have me on the edge of my seat. A lot of bad people in this one, and one guy to root for. A good classic film position to be in.

Give Gringo a shot, at least just once.

3 out of 4.

Death Wish

I don’t know a lot about Death Wish. I didn’t see the original, and the story doesn’t sound interesting. The plot of the film is the type that just promises to be a gory kill fest.

But I have seen a decent amount of Eli Roth‘s work, the director of this remake. He is all over the place when it comes to horror, and I will say that I think The Green Inferno is entirely too messed up. I had to pause it several times because of how graphic it was, so I entirely expected this to be just as graphic.

And their choice to put Lord Voldemort as a bad guy makes sense as well.

Car
Tom Riddle could use a finger gun.

Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) is a relatively successful surgeon in Chicago. He has to surgery a lot of different people, and a lot of them are shot up. Apparently Chicago has a lot of gun violence, who knew! He has a wife (Elisabeth Shue) and a daughter, (Camilla Morrone), about to go to college at the end of her senior year. In NYC. Ugh.

Unfortunately, there is something foul afoot in Chicago. A string of burglaries in their neighborhood that wasn’t super announced. They find out that the family is supposed to be out one night celebrating a birthday, but an emergency at the hospital cancels their plans. Now the burglars end up going into a home that isn’t actually going to be empty, leading to some issues. More gun shots, more pain, more death.

Obvious bad things happen, putting Paul into a spin. He begins to question everything. He wants to clean up the streets, since he feels that the cops cannot find the criminals until something lucky, maybe happens. So he gets a gun, and he decides to do a little bit of vigilante justice instead.

Also starring Vincent D’Onofrio, Dean Norris, Kimberly Elise, Beau Knapp, and Jack Kesy.

Hoodie
See, if it was a black man in a hoodie, he couldn’t even pretend to be a vigilante without getting shot.

On the surface level, Death Wish is probably a very average, regular, action movie. At no point is it a great action movie, a well thought out action movie, or even an exciting action movie. Just an average one. And normally average regular films get a 2 out of 4.

But you know what, some things really irked me. One, it never really got to a level of violence you would expect from Roth. It was probably tamer than the original in some regards, which is a shock since this one is at least rated R.

Willis as a surgeon never felt believable. His quiet reserved dad look never felt believable. Nor did his awkward transition to a vigilante. This was not a great role for Willis at all, if we wanted it to seem possible. No one really stood out as great acting in the film.

After the “auto mechanic scene”, the movie also went down hill from an entertainment point of view. It felt awkward, forced, and just not good.

And maybe a part of this is just based on the current political climate, one that definitely does not want or need people with guns running around. The movie was incessant about having radio talk show hosts talk about the vigilante (who listens to that much radio?) way too much in the movie. And every time they talked, the same things were said. That was their way of seeming cool and modern I guess, like when characters use emojis.

I guess that after we arm the school teachers, it just makes sense that we start arming the doctors too. The people who should be saving lives needing to take them. Shrug. Bleh. Pass.

1 out of 4.

Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Director Dan Gilroy did something amazing a few years back. He directed for the first time a feature length film. That film was Nightcrawler. And Nightcrawler was bananas good. I am disappointed I did not see it in theaters and I am disappointed it did not win things.

He quickly became a director to watch out for.

This last year, Roman J. Israel, Esq. came out with little fanfair. Very little advertisement, was barely on screens. I did not feel like watching it because of the mixed reviews and figured I could just wait until it was on DVD. Then it had to go and get nominated for an Oscar.

Just one Oscar mind you, an acting one. And it makes sense, because the star who was nominated has been nominated plenty of times, the Academy loves him, even on roles that do not warrant awards. That is when I found out who the director was, once again, kicking myself for not seeing it earlier in theaters.

All good now. It is out, it has been seen, and it is not as good as Nightcrawler.

Baller
But it is certainly more funky.

Roman J. Israel, Esq (Denzel Washington), is a lawyer. He doesn´t go into the court room to grandstand and holler. He is a guy who works in the office. William Jackson is his partner. Jackson handles the courtroom drama and is a professor. Israel handles the memos, gets the ideas, writes the briefs. He is really good at that.

You see, Israel is probably autistic, has a perfect memory of law codes and knows what argument to make and what precedents exist. He just cannot deal with people for the most part. When he sees an injustice he has to comment on it and explain it, which can cause him ire with other workers and judges.

And then Jackson suffers a heart attack, has a coma, and leaves a lot in question. Israel starts to working the cases, not looking for deals and not wanting to delay things further. But Jackson´s daughter becomes the owner of his estate and is looking to liquidate everything, knowing Israel cannot do it on his own.

This brings Israel to a real firm, run by George Pierce (Colin Farrell), who is maybe a good guy, maybe not. Either way, it is change. Change is hard. Change can do a lot to man. It can even make a man go against his morals, thinking his life has lead him to the bottom. It can make a man go against everything he has fought for, just for a quick payout. It can lead to a man becoming his own worst enemy.

Also starring Carmen Ejogo and Amari Cheatom.

Hair
And perhaps, binders of women? Hmm?

Gilroy probably starts his movie ideas thinking of a character who is very passionate about something. In Nightcrawler, that passion is being a sociopath who will do anything to get to the top. In Roman J. Israel Esq., we have someone who has a perfect memory and is autistic who is afraid of coming out of the shadows. He wants to fight for human rights and for equality, but he always had to help other people do the talking for him. An extremely moral man who when put up against tragic events, unfortunately, turned into an immoral man.

An interesting character study and a relatively fun character. It is definitely something different for Washington, who never once felt like a badass in this film. A great surprise for all of us.

I think the biggest problems with this film come from the ending. It brought a great twist of events to us and it just did not seem to follow through. I thought it was ramping up to turn into an almost completely different genre, but instead it petered out. If this was based on true events it could be a fun movie as there is at least some conclusions after the fact that we can see. But to bring about these ground breaking ideas and then do nothing with them? The film just runs out of steam.

Again, Washington is totally find in this movie. I can see why it was nominated, while also still wanting to give nominations to several other actors above him.

The film is better than I imagined it could be, but several parts will easily turn other watchers off and possibly lower their overall opinion accordingly.

3 out of 4.

Brawl in Cell Block 99

Brawl in Cell Block 99 is a great title. It is descriptive, while also leaving enough mystery to make you wonder. It highlights a single fight, which means it is a fight that should stand out in a movie that probably has a lot of fights. And it just has good letters. Those B’s are powerful, not a lot of B’S in movies lately, let alone multiple Bs.

This is brought to us by S. Craig Zahler, who gave us Bone Tomahawk recently. It was well known and received for being a slow, well acted western, with also one really gross death scene that really rattled people.

And this one is about prison! I am sure it will be perfectly quaint, although, not your average action film. Its run time is over two hours, so it better have a lot of story to tell in between punches.

Not99
This is not the titular brawl, just the Brawl in the Prison Yard.

Bradley Thomas (Vince Vaughn) is an honest working man, a bit of a tall muscular freak, but hard working. He is a tow driver, which makes below average pay. But he has been fired from that. And at home, he found out his wife, Lauren (Jennifer Carpenter), was cheating on him. He deals with his anger the only way he knows, and not on her. They agree to work through it, to go for a baby, and Bradley will go back to being a drug dealer (not a user), where his size and strength can come in handy.

And now, a year and a half later, everything is fine! They have a bigger house, a baby girl on the way, life is looking up!

Until Bradley gets a job he does not want to do. The thugs involved with the deal look like users. They look like no good people who will try and kill and steal and put him in the line of fire. He agrees reluctantly only because if he does that he will get three months off paid once his baby is born. See, even if the drug business has better parental leave than the USA!

Bradley takes the deal, things go south, and sure, Bradley is in prison. He is blamed for the deal going south of course, so he is told that unless he kills another prisoner, they will get someone to perform a very late term abortion on his wife, and his not yet born baby girl will, well, stay that way. The only issue is, this guy is in a much more extreme prison, so he has to “earn” his way there by going against his own morals and code and hurting people to save the ones he loves.

Also starring Dan Amboyer, Don Johnson, Geno Segers, Marc Blucas, Tom Guiry, and Udo Keir.

Prison
This is not the titular brawl, this isn’t a brawl at all!

While watching Brawl in Cell Block 99, I had two main thoughts: One, when are we getting to this brawl that they needed to emphasize in the title? and two, Vaughn is really carrying this power and weight in this role. I was intimidated by him and awed by him. They made his character smart, strong, and oddly moral. When you expected domestic violence, you got instead a calm rational human, who didn’t even yell. It was odd and satisfying.

Anyways, there are a handful of action scenes pre-brawl to entertain those who ned punching. Of course some of that is just people straight up beating up one person, some of it is Vaughn seeming like a super hero.

Okay okay, at this point I am stalling. Once the brawl started to happen, it got really tense as it first had to involve a breakout attempt. Watching our moral character beat up guards at a level of realizing he is doing wrong, trying not to hurt them too bad, while also doing it for his wife and unborn girl. And then the actual part that matters, well I HAD TO STOP WATCHING ONCE IT STARTED. IT GOT REALLY INTENSE, REALLY QUICKLY AND I COULD ONLY GAG AND COUGH AND SHRIEK TO MYSELF. After that, it wasn’t that bad BUT IT STILL GOT REALLY INTENSE.

I had to type in caps there to properly show just how freaked out this movie got very quickly. It ramped up several notches, and frankly I wasn’t ready for it. The high rating isn’t just for those scenes, but for the whole build up, for seemingly telling a unique story in a familiar location, and just how strong Vaughn was in it.

I should have known what I was getting into with the director, and next time I won’t be caught unawares. After all, the next film is called Dragged Across Concrete, which is extremely descriptive and I am already gagging in anticipation.

4 out of 4.

Bright

Bright was meant to be this big Netflix release at the end of the year, one of their first Blockbuster films. So of course they brought in Will Smith for this adventure.

And hell, they made it R, so we can get the killing, the swearing, and the boobs. Just going to go all out. They even did pre-screenings of the film for press! The night before it was on Netflix, sure, but they were trying.

And then everyone hated it. I heard a lot of things, like how it was meant to be the worst film of the year, terrible, whatever. So something I meant to ignore I was now contractually obligated to write about. Statistically, everyone who sees this review would have seen it by the time I publish this, which in my head is currently “whenever.”

Duo
“Say whenever again, I dare you.” – Samuel wilL. Smith.

In the year, I dunno, probably this one, in a city much like LA, we have one notable difference. Fantasy races also exist in our world, or at least just a few. We got elves, we got orcs, we got fairies, and as far as I can tell that is it. Sorry people who love dwarves. Two thousand years ago there was some Dark One that came and tried to destroy the world, the Orcs were on his side, the “good guys” won and the orcs were hated ever since, despite being citizens of the world as well. So they get shit upon by everyone.

Oh and magic! And specifically, magic wands which are super rare. The only people who can use the wands are called Brights, who are usually elves. Humans have been Brights in the past but it is like, 1 in a million chance of being a Bright. Oh, and the only way to know if you are a Bright is to try and use a wand, if you aren’t a Bright, you will explode. good times.

Now that world building is done, we have a cop duo, Daryl Ward (Will Smith) and Nick Jakoby (Joel Edgerton), the only orc cop for diversity reasons. Also no one wants to work with Ward cause he is a dick, or moral, or something. Ward hates it, Jakoby just wants to be a good guy, and Ward recently got shot on a call as his partner was getting food, so he is angry a lot.

After thirty minutes of exposition and shit talking to the Orc, we eventually have the duo discover an actual wand, and an elf who is talking gibberish and warnings. Before they can turn everything over, they find out that a lot of people want the wand for their own power hungry ways, including other cops ready to sweep this incident under the rug.

So our duo has to run around town at night, protecting an elf and the wand, from groups who want it, or else maybe the world will end. Who knows!

Also starring Alex Meraz, (Noomi Rapace), Edgar Ramirez, Happy Anderson, Lucy Fry, Margaret Cho, and Veronica Ngo.

Trio
Elves are rich and elves are hipster druggies.

Was Bright the worst movie of the year? Hell no. In fact, not even the worst movie I have seen on Netflix as an “original film” this year. It doesn’t mean it is good, it is still bad, but it wasn’t dog shit terrible.

However, the intro is going to turn so many people off. It is going for a parallel of their world and our world’s view on races, but they put it to 11. The first 30 minutes or whatever is just people railing into the orc cop, from all sides, constantly. If you want abuse, you will get it, and by then people will have made up their minds. They get over it eventually, but it puts a bad taste into everyone’s mouth. It is far too heavy handed.

After that, it is only an okay story. Nothing too original, the fantasy elements are only somewhat there, and really, the ending is obvious. The acting is mediocre and the effects are also mediocre. So a mostly blah movie with a bad intro is of course, a bad grade.

The bottom line? Netflix wanted to turn this movie in to a franchise of films or a TV show (along the lines of the Marvel series) or something. And you know what? It probably still will. The world building is there already, they have a lot of room for other fantasy growth, and most importantly, they have a shit ton of people talking about this film.

I don’t know how Netflix in particular makes money from their movies/shows, given everything comes with the submission fee. But almost everyone I know has talked about watching this movie since it came out, due to the hype and the bad talk. So this movie probably put up amazing numbers besides the PR buzz. Expect more Bright in the future, whether you want it or not.

1 out of 4.

Good Time

This film doesn’t even have to try, it’s always going to be a Good Time. Because that is its name. Carly Rae Jepsen agrees.

I am late into watching this movie. I wanted to see it months ago, but being a shithead, I got the date confused at when the screening was supposed to happen. So instead, I was in a theater and had to watch The Only Living Boy in New York, which is not at all similar to Good Time.

Thankfully, the film came back to the front of my mind lately, thanks to getting nominated for some Spirit Awards. Awards? Edward Cullen? Sign me up.

Run
Painting the town red? No, paint YOURSELVES red.

What is the cost of having a good time? Maybe robbing a bank for some sweet sweet cash, so you have the bills to pay the…well, bills.

Connie Nikas (Robert Pattinson) and his brother, Nick Nikas (Benny Safdie) are trying to do that right now. Connie is the brains of the operation, Nick is the brawn, and only by the looks of it. He is a bit slower than a regular person, so he is just sort of there for the ride and to help out.

But the plan backfires a bit in that during the escape, everything goes wrong, and Nick gets caught by the police. They know he didn’t work alone and they know he isn’t the mastermind, but they will take what they can get while Connie goes into hiding. Connie wants to get his brother out of jail ASAP, since he is getting poorly mistreated by everyone on the inside. But when working with a bail bondsman, shit doesn’t work the way it had planned, and his friends with money are having their own personal issues.

That is when Connie finds out that his brother is in a local hospital after some new injuries from the slammer. Well, why worry about bonds when he can instead maybe break his brother out of the hospital and get them on the run? Yeah, that is the perfect plan.

Also featuring Barkhad Abdi, Buddy Duress, Eric Paykert, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Necro, Peter Verby, and Taliah Webster.

Bars
None of the photos from this film show people having an actual good time.

The best part of Good Time is the pulsing,constantly scene captivating soundtrack. The first twenty or so minutes feel so intense, as even the more mundane elements are pushed to 11 thanks to the soundtrack. As soon as I commented it to my wife about how the movie was making me anxious thanks to its music choices, it started to die down a bit and let things settle.

That is when the film also started to lose my own interest.

Good Time has a decent plot and story, and frankly great acting from the lead Pattinson. He is completely transformed for this role into a new person. It is a wonder to say.

The plot just starts to get erratic in the middle and near the end. Once it slows down, it just has a hard time picking back up. Basically, after the the breakout from the hospital it seems to pitter patter itself into a different, slower film. Slowness in a film isn’t a bad thing, it just doesn’t seem to match the earlier intensity and sounds of the beginning. They eventually bring it back, but at that point it is just too late.

Good Time would be a better time if it could just keep up the enthusiasm that it started with, instead of devolving into a complete mess in the middle.

2 out of 4.

Wind River

For awhile, I was up in Northern Minnesota. This is real life, true story. How north, you ask? Well, apparently a 45 minute drive would have taken me to Canada.

I bring this up for two reasons: One, it made me miss quite a few screenings, because they show movies up there months after everyone else saw them, certainly not before. And two, the movie Wind River is set in the wilderness.

Not almost Canada, but cold enough in the months of “barely Spring” Wyoming, in the mountains.

So basically, I am this story. If you squint really really hard.

Hunt
Oh hey. Avengers. I see you upgraded weapons.

Set in the titular Wind River, Wyoming, this takes us to a big reservation city where people want to just be left alone, raise their families, and not be fucked over by the white man. Basically like a lot of people in the world.

Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) is a cool white guy though, as you can tell with his white name. He is okay, because he works to help the area. He lives alone and is a hunter, and he works for the government sort of, taking out wolves or lions or whatever that are messing with people’s farms. He has an ex wife (Julia Jones) and a son (Teo Briones) that he has visitation for sometimes. Definitely some backstory there. Would be awesome if a new character was brought in so that it could be addressed at some point.

But before that, DEATH. Because while out looking for a momma lion and her cubs, he stumbles upon a dead body. A girl, Natalie (Kelsey Asbille) that he knows, barefoot, and miles away from any house. His plans have changed, and now they have to wait for an FBI agent to get there to investigate the possible murder. Which is where we meet Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), girl totally not used to the cold, here to check things out. Despite bad things that have clearly happened to the girl, specifically physical stuff, the death cannot be ruled a murder but natural causes. Weather is a goddamn bitch.

Banner doesn’t have a lot of time to investigate this before she will be called back to a new job, so she enlists Lambert’s help in order to get someone who knows the area and land to maybe make some leads quickly before she has to run off again. Can they figure out the mystery behind her death?

Featuring the awesome Graham Greene as the local cop, and Gil Birmingham as Natalie’s dad. Also all of these people: Apesanahkwat, Eric Lange, Tantoo Cardinal, Althea Sam, Tyler Laracca, Martin Sensmeier, Tokala Clifford, Jon Bernthal, James Jordan, Austin R. Grant, Blake Robbins, Hugh Dillon, Ian Bohen, and Matthew Del Negro.

Grief
And Birmingham’s face was played by William Wallace.

After watching, Wind River seems like one of those movies that I really love for basically every aspect, that other movie watchers will find to be boring or dumb. I hate it when that happens. I want those people to open their minds and realize they just witnessed something epic, so I write about it (while begrudgingly say that yeah, everyone can have an opinion), and make sure people get out there.

But honestly I can’t see that happening. I can’t imagine people going to watch this and not being impressed with it. It is just so damn good. There is no way this can have a disconnect between critic and the average movie goer. Anyone should be able to go in, see how much Renner, Olsen and Greene brought it the entire time they weer on the screen. They should be able to see how much Birmingham did with a lot less screen time. They should be appreciative of the cast that was very racially sensitive to the area.

And they should be able to see how well the plot unfolded. When the movie decided to reveal the secrets, they should feel how their stomach turned and their anger increased. The emotions would be on a ride if someone just let them.

Sure, Wind River started off a little bit slow, but once we get dead body, it should captivate the viewer, and you will see definitely one of the best films of 2017.

4 out of 4.

Despicable Me 3

Oh my damn. Here we go. A continuation of a bad franchise, hitting its trilogy mark after an equally bad spinoff. Does that sound familiar? This summer is Deja Vu-ing.

I will be honest when I went in with the lowest of expectations with Despicable Me 3. I mean, how could it get worse? It really couldn’t. It would just be more of the same, probably.

But it was announced over a year ago that Trey Parker, of BASEketball, Cannibal! The Musical, and yes, South Park fame would be voicing the villain. Parker! Crude humorist! Apparently it is something a lot of R rated people do, voice a kids movie so that their kids can finally see something that they have done.

At first I thought it was just another rando-celebrity signing instead of a nice voice actor. But then I remembered that Parker is a voice actor, he voices a shit ton of characters. So it won’t just be his regular talking voice, but an actual character! Hooray!

And that character ends up sounding up mostly like Randy Marsh.

80S
And if you look closely, it should look a bit like a Randy too.

For whatever reason, this franchise still exists with the title of Despicable Me, because as we all know, Gru (Steve Carell) is now a “good guy” taking care of his girls and his wife, Lucy (Kristen Wiig), who needs no taking care of. They are both members of the Anti-Villain League, and you know, trying to stop the bad guys.

After a failed encounter with Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker), an 80’s kid TV star whose show was cancelled due to puberty, and now world villain playing his character as an adult and relying on 80’s themed reference weapons, Gru and Lucy are fired from the AVL! Boo new director (Jenny Slate).

Sad times, being fired and jobless. But he promises to not resort back to villainy, for his girls (Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, Nev Scharrel. Note: the last one is new, Agnes used to be Elsie Fisher but I guess she got too old). Also, hey look at the timing, he gets a notice that his long lost twin brother is looking for him. Apparently his parents got divorced when they were babies and they decided to break up the twins. The fuck, right?

Blah blah blah, his brother is Dru (Steve Carell), super rich and lives in a land that is like Denmark, or Northern Europe. It is time for Gru to learn about the family business…being a bad guy! His dad was a famous bad guy, and now Dru wants Gru to teach him how to be bad. Oh no.

Also featuring the voices of Steve Coogan, Julie Andrews, and Adrian Ciscato.

Bros
Don’t worry, Dru also speaks in a high pitched voice to help tell them apart.

Despicable Me 3 is basically as bad as I had imagined, but not worse. For those keeping track, I am saying that Despicable Me 3 is a better movie than Cars 3. It had issues, but not as many. It had some better moments, but not too many.

It is another franchise that decides to keep adding permanent characters to keep things interesting, instead of just making an interesting story with the characters we have. Last one we got Lucy, now we have a now twin brother Dru. However, having Gru’s father being a very famous villain/criminal who was super successful, is shit. They show photos of him in the new lair, and yes, he looks like Gru. So somehow Gru, master villain himself, has never heard of another bad guy who is older than him but looks almost identical? Unheard of. It is such a cheap cop out to introduce sudden new family members, and quite lazy.

Speaking of characters, there are too many and therefore not enough plot for all of them. Like poor Edith, I think that is the middle kid. She just exists in this film. She has a handful of lines, but doesn’t have her own story like the other two girls. Their stories Margo and Agnes, are incredibly minor though and just feel like filler because of too many characters.

The movie has the minions leave Gru, because they need to be bad things and need a villain, but he doesn’t want to. Hooray less minions right? Nope. Two of them stay behind so we get to have them with Gru still, and we get to see their minion adventures as they wander the town and prison.

I guess I don’t have a lot more else to say. With Despicable Me 3, you get a lot more of the same. The plot is weak, the sideplots are weak, some catchphrases to get people quoting the film, the animation is kind of shit (where the characters are all extremes, like too thin, too fat, etc), but that has been the norm. Just another bad animated film in the year with a lot of bad animated films.

1 out of 4.

Baby Driver

At the time of writing this introduction, Baby Driver was listed on Wikipedia as a British-American action crime comedy jukebox musical film, and when I first read that my heart skipped several beats. I am now dead. [Editor’s note: I have gotten better, and the Wikipedia article has since been shortened.]

Those genre’s together just seemed too good to be true, and it was. Because a jukebox musical means, 1) It is a musical, and 2) That the songs that the character sing already exist and come from the charts. But I knew this wasn’t a musical, just a film that really, really, really, loved music. Music that yes, at different times, may have hit the charts. And even if the main character sings some of them, they still don’t qualify it as a musical.

Which is sad, but I am mostly certain no one will turn a plot like this one into an actual musical. Or at least, not for film, but you never know with Broadway turning out 2 or more “Movie title, the musical!” films a year.

Elevator
“Elevator, the musical!” is coming up and down this fall.

Baby (Ansel Elgort) loves music. It is a major part of his identity, there are always earbuds in his ears with an iPod playing a song to help the situation. When Baby was a kid, his parents got into a car accident with him in the back seat. They died, he survived, and he gained an ever persistent noise in his ears that won’t go away. The music helps dull it out.

Baby unfortunately got into some trouble. He became very good at cars, being one of the best drivers around despite his young age. But one day, he messed with the wrong man, Doc (Kevin Spacey), and lost a lot of his merchandise. And now, to pay Doc back, Baby has been the driver for several bank robberies in the greater Atlanta area, with his share always going towards his payment. But as soon as he pays off Doc, he wants out. He just wants to drive and be free, he definitely doesn’t want to hurt anyone.

Baby works with criminals, however. And criminals can be erratic and put his family in danger. His family being his foster dad (CJ Jones), who is now in a wheel chair, deaf, and needs a lot of attention. And Deborah (Lily James), a waitress at a diner he frequents who shares his passion of music and is generally a free spirit. So when the criminals start doing bad things, it is Baby’s duty to get out of it while protecting those he cares about.

We have quite a few criminals played by actors like Jon Hamm, Jon Bernthal, Jamie Foxx, Eiza González, Flea, and Lanny Joon. Also featuring Sky Ferreira and Hal Whiteside.

Diner
Everyone knows that diners are the best place to go for music and pie.

Baby Driver, from start to finish, will keep you on the edge of your seat and the edge of your car seat as well when you are heading home. Don’t watch this movie during the day, because you will want the roads empty so you can blast music and drive (responsibly) maybe a little bit faster. It will take over you, especially if you are a movie goer with varied music tastes.

Elgort has been in quite a few teenage romance / young adult films. The Fault in our Stars, Paper Towns, Divergent, even the Carrie remake. But Baby Driver is finally his jumping off point into something greater than all of his parts before combined. He is now part of a cinematic masterpiece, playing a role unlike his other characters, and hopefully will lead him to a lot of better roles in the future. Elgort might be a star, especially lucky after he didn’t get the Star Wars gig.

The cinematography, the action, the variety of characters, the dialogue, and of course, the music, make Baby Driver a must see film. I especially appreciate at how diverse the music ends up being, from all sorts of decades and genres. In addition to that, having the action FIT the music is an incredible achievement and allowed me to sit in my seat in awe.

I can’t talk enough about how wonderful an experience Baby Driver was. It is a film that I want to see again in theaters and will pick up on Blu-Ray day one of its release.

4 out of 4.

Shimmer Lake

Studies have shown that reviews that feature “Lake” in the title end up being better than expected when writing said review.

Of course, my only review before this was the movie Flakes, which was, I admit, better than I imagined it would be. It was quirky, off beat.

Shimmer Lake, it has plenty of quirky actors in it, but I am not sure how off beat it will end up being. I did go in with low expectations, despite the Lake theory, and as you can see, hey, it was better than I imagined.

Interviews
There was less sexual tension in this movie than I imagined as well. Look at that gap between police officers!

Shimmer Lake is also a story told in reverse. Similar to Memento, sure, but it is on a day by day basis. We start our story on Friday, and we see how the entirety of Friday plays out, then we see Thursday, all the way to Tuesday.

Because you see, on Tuesday, there was a bank robbery. And this is a small town, Shimmer Lake, so everybody knows everybody, and heck, a lot of them are related. Like or Sheriff Zeke (Benjamin Walker), whose brother, Andy (Rainn Wilson), a lawyer, just helped rob a bank on Tuesday. Andy worked with two other locals (Wyatt Russell, Mark Rendall) robbed a bank when it had a well known surplus, and Zeke was shot in the theft.

And now they are still about the town, Zeke is sure of it.

We just have to figure out how all the players are involved, which of course is revealed slowly while telling us backwards. We also have a judge (John Michael Higgins), a couple of FBI helpers (Rob Corddry, Ron Livingston), the deputy (Adam Pally), and the wife of a robber (Stephanie Sigman), and somehow one or more of them are involved.

And don’t worry, the lake is not the answer to the mystery.

Table
Blueprints and alcohol are the best items to help with a bank robbery.

About three fourths of the way into this movie, I wondered why it was being told in reverse. It didn’t seem to be adding really anything extra to the story. It seemed to be Memento-ing because people liked Memento.

But of course by the end it all became a bit more clear. And yes, Shimmer Lake is a film that will be better the second go around. I don’t know if I will ever really watch it a second time, but I would like to see what clues give it all away and make this story tick.

It was a bit hard to label this movie, because there are a lot of actors who are mostly in comedy films filling out the roster, and I think that adds a strange aesthetic to the whole film. I am calling it a Dark Comedy in that regard, because it is normally comic actors acting serious, in events that are larger than life.

Shimmer Lake isn’t a film that is reinventing the wheel or adding something entirely new to the industry. But it does try to stand out and, as I implied earlier, ends up being a better ride than expected.

3 out of 4.

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