The Snowman (2017)

The Snowman

Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender) stares at The Snowman

The suspense that is haunting me after seeing The Snowman is not from the story. It is wondering how in the name of all that is sacred did so many talented people make this utter piece of crap? I would rather shovel snow with plastic sandwich bags as boot replacements (and I live in the suburbs of Chicago). The film does give you chills, but far from the positive kind.

There are going to be a lot of names I mention that will make you realize how disappointing this movie truly is. Unlike the victims in the movie, these Hollywood talents will have their careers survive, but it will leave scars. Executive Producer Martin Scorsese (yep, you heard right) and director Tomas Alfredson (who made that timeless vampire movie Let the Right one in in 2008 and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy three years later) give us a movie that is grubby, drabby (not sure if that is a word, but it fits the movie), and muddled. Alfredson himself said the movie was rushed, and that up to 15% of the script was not even shot. I guess that figures out correctly, though to call the script loose is an understatement: I don’t think any screws were used at all to secure it.

It truly seemed like the talented Michael Fassbender was mopey the entire time. He stars as Harry Hole (I am all about character names where they have the same letter for first and last name, but his just seems weird), who I believe is a detective of some kind in Norway (which I did not know until I looked it up). There is a killer on the loose who is always ahead of Hole, leaving Snowmen at the scene of the crime. We also know that, as a child, he mother committed suicide by driving out on a frozen lake and waiting for the ice to crack.

Hole is also accompanied by Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson, who was in another bad movie earlier this year, Life). Whether it be as a team or as potential lovers, chemistry is completly absent. Hole also has an ex girlfriend (I think? the relationships were hard to follow) Rakel (Charlotten Gainsbourg) who has a son named Oleg (Michael Yates) who Harry is trying to be a father to (though he is not, I don’t  think). Even Mathias (Jonas Karlsson), Rakel’s current boyfriend, is cool with Harry.

Yeah, ok.

There are other subplots that are completely obscure. I am a big fan of J.K. Simmons, but his character, Arve Stop, adds nothing to the movie at all. It also hurt to see that his accent was just atrocious. Another character that is borderline laughable is Rafto. He is played by Val Kilmer. His character is told in flashbacks, but he is supposed to be a myth in the business of the police. Had Kilmer been given enough to work with (which he is given the equivalent of a teaspoon of sugar), he may have had something. It also does not help that Kilmer seems to have been dubbed horribly (I do know the actor recently had battled cancer, so if that is the reason, then I obviously would not fault him at all. There is also Chloe Sevigny as twins, because…….um, well, it does something for the story I guess. Seriously, these great actors are just left out to dry.

Parents, there is some swearing, a bit of nudity (the Simmons character was almost borderline Harvey Weinstein which thankfully did not happen), and a lot of violence. I say High School and above. The IQ level you need, however, is anywhere above 10.

Even the editor, Thelma Schoonmaker, is a victim of The Snowman. She has worked on Scorsese masterpieces (Goodfellas and Raging Bull, just to name some). Being show in snowy landscapes, there are maybe one or two nice looking shots that got my attention, but that is it.  I mean, seriously. The only thing worse than a bad movie is a bad movie made by talented people. The Snowman is a movie that can be used to blackmail movie lovers (let alone critics), sending shivers down the spine.

There is still the worst movie sin that The Snowman does commit.

One that no movie, never, ever, should.

Being utterly boring.

Overall: One Star *

 

Ben-Hur (2016)

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A movie with Morgan Freeman? What could go wrong?

Normally, I will wait until the next day before I write a review. This will not be the case with the remake of Ben-Hur. I must advise all: this is one bad film (even though you can trust the 29% approval rating the film has on rottentomatoes.com). I bought an ICEE, and spent much of the film wondering when I should throw it away (I only hesitated on the idea because the seat I was in was so comfy).

For those who have not seen the (much better) film from 1959 (which itself was a remake from a silent film from 1925), or have read the book, the story tells of Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Houston). A jewish prince, he grows up with his best friend and adoptive brother Messala (Toby Kebbell). One day, Messala betrays Judah along with his wife Esther (Nazanin Boniadi), his mother Naomi (Ayelet Zurer), and his sister Tirzah (Sofia Black D’Elia). Ben-Hur is sentenced to a life of slavery before he is discovered by Sheik Ilderim (Morgan Freeman). In all honesty, I don’t remember Morgan Freeman’s character ever being named, but it is Morgan Freeman, so does anyone really care? Apparently Freeman doesn’t, because there are sometimes where it seemed even he was bored.

It is also important to realize that the film takes place during the time of the ministry of Jesus. Jesus is probably the most difficult role to play, and Rodrigo Santoro does do a fine job at it. If only he was given more to work with.

The movie is made by the same people who did the bible miniseries a few years ago (and later made a movie about it). Basically, like all Christian movies (and it pains me to admit this), the hearts of the filmmakers are totally in the right place. It is the thought process that I am failing to discover.

Basically, the action scenes are just by the books. When we finally get to the race scene at the end, we don’t expect much (and don’t get it either).

Parents, there is no swearing or any sexual material (other than kissing). There is action/violence, but not any worse than what can be found in a comic book movie. Middle Schoolers and above would be fine.

Actually, I take that back. I would rather people see the 1959 version with Charlton Heston (one of my favorite things about that movie is you never seen the face of Christ). Sure, that film is long, but it is more engaging and a heck of a lot more entertaining. The new Ben-Hur is proof that, for the most part, remakes are not a good thing.

It is Ben-Hurrible.

Sorry, but I sat through the movie, so I can make that joke.

Overall: One Star *

Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)

Independence Day Resurgence

Will Smith is absent, but at least Jeff Goldblum is back, right?

As a proud 1990s kid, I had many great movies stapled into my childhood, and seeing Independence Day at the age of 9 was truly one of them. It was loud, silly, and a lot of fun.

Now, twenty years later (in which time I like to think I got a bit smarter along the way), we have Independence Day: Resurgence. I will be blunt: The fact than Will Smith is not in the movie is not the worst part. There are many issues.

First, the main reason that I went to this movie was because of the character of Dr. Okun (Brent Spiner). If you remember the first one, on the second day (July 3rd), he and his team of scientists are performing surgery on an unconcious alien. The alien awakens, and kills everyone in the room. Apparently, Okun survived (despite a scene where his neck is being felt for a pulse, showing he clearly died) and was in a coma for twenty years. Ok, sure, I guess. I know nothing about comas, but something does sound a bit fishy.

Also, though Will Smith’s character is absent (he died in a test flight crash), his step son Dylan (Jessie T. Usher) is still around as a pilot. His mom Jasmine (Vivica A. Fox) was an exotic dancer. Now, she is a nurse/doctor (I was not sure). I guess you could say that she had enough time to study to be where she is now at twenty years, but the situations she is in seem as cliche as loud kids on Christmas morning.

The basic plot: we as humans have upped our defenses in case of another invasion, but the aliens had time as well (though if they knew about us in the first place, why not just use that technology in the first one?  Probably because it was in 1996.) We now have stations on the moon, with pilots like Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth). He is engaged to Patricia Whitmore (Maika Monroe), daughter of Former President Thomas Whitmore (Bill Pullman). The former president is having nightmares/visions (as is Dr. Okun) of the aliens. Jeff Goldblum is back as David Levinson, though he seems uninterested to be there. The same can basically be said for his on screen dad Julius, played again by Judd Hirsch. He too is thrown into a situation that is as cliche as (let me think here)…oh, candy on Halloween (I am on a role!)

Others include William Fichtner as General Adams, Sela Ward as (current) President Lanford, and a brief return for General Grey, played by the late Robert Loggia.

Parents, if the kids have seen the original, you can let them see this (at least they won’t be confused if they haven’t).

Actually, you should let them just end on the first one, and pretend that it ended with Will Smith fulfilling his step son’s wishes for fireworks. Resurgence is like a fire work you see go into the air, and realize that it is not going off.

 

Overall: One Star *

Jupiter Ascending (2015)

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Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis in “Jupiter Ascending”.

I remember back when The Matrix came out, and (after having to see it twice, since I was a little young to comprehend what the heck was happening) thinking it was awesome. And while I did enjoy the second film (I never saw the third), the only other thing I think the Wachowskis did worth seeing was V for Vendetta (I will always remember  remember the fifth of November).

However, there is a big crash known as Jupiter Ascending. It is one of the most confusing movies I have seen recently, but, unlike in The Matrix, I do not have the desire to go back to find out what it was about. Any movie is in trouble when you want to play on you mobile device over watching it.

I will try to see what I can put together. The movie starts out when Jupiter (Mila Kunis) is telling about how her father was murdered right before she was born (and just after he decides to name her after the planet). She, along with her Russian (I think) family cleaning houses (she is stuck to bathroom duty). We then meet Caine (Channing Tatum), some form of space warrior who is sent to protect Jupiter because we find out she is meant to be the Queen of Earth (she also apparently can handle bees well because, you know, they sense her Queenyness. Yeah, I evented a word).

There is also one of Caine’s friends, Stinger (the always present Sean Bean). We find out that Earth is to be “harvested” by an evil Abrasax family. There is the mother Kalique (Tuppence Middleton) and one of her sons Titus (Douglas Booth). However, it is her other son, Balem, who is the main bad guy. He is played by recent Oscar Winner Eddie Redmayne, who I still think is a great actor. I say this because his performance in this film absolutly stunk, and made no sense. He, like the film, was trying to be original, and failed miserably.

Another problem with the film is Mila Kunis. She is a good, likable actor, but her character is not even worth mentioning in the same sentence as female heroines such as Sarah Connor, Ellen Ripely, even Nintendo’s Samus Aran. Jupiter lacks any toughness, or spark, and humor.

Parents, the film has one scene where a (minor) character is in her underwear, but that is it. There is also some swearing, a little action, and some kissing. There is not, however, any real character development, good action, or, worst of all, entertaining content.

 

Overall: One Star *

The Last Airbender (2010)

After hearing nothing but bad reviews over the years, I decided to give The Last Airbender a try. I never got around to seeing the series on TV, but I have seen a few episodes. I do, however, have friends who are fans of it, and are horrified by the movie.

My view is that the movie is indeed bad. There are complaints about how the characters names are not even pronounced the right way, or that Aang (Noah Ringer, who could have been great if his role was written to be less boring) is not as cheery as he was in the cartoon. Basically, for those who don’t know, you have a war between fire benders and all other benders (water, earth, and the rare airbenders). Aang is the last of the airbenders, known as the Avatar (which they could not put in the title lest they wanted confusion with the James Cameron Epic).

The special effects are not as bad as I would have thought (not saying they are good, they are just so so). The acting is, at many times, pretty over the top, and that is not a good thing here. The main person at fault here is the director, M. Night Shyamalan. I think this would be the movie that has cemented his legacy as a one trick pony director (The Sixth Sense, although I did enjoy Signs and have heard good things about Unbreakable). The story line is so jammed fire codes are being broken.

Parents, there is nothing here to be worried about. The problem is, there is hardly anything here good at all (although some of the costumes and music weren’t that bad). Still I have seen worse.

Overall: 1 Star *

Chappie (2015)

If you were to see Chappie knowing nothing about it but what you saw in the first trailer, you would be surprised. What seems like a movie that was aimed at pre teens was truly shown in its second trailer: an R rated sci-fi adventure. The result is truly disastrous.

The movie seemed intriguing to me, in that it was directed by Neill Blomkamp. While I never saw his last film, Elysium (with Matt Damon), I was a big fan of District 9. That film I still feel is one of the best Sci-Fi flicks of the 21st Century (I would argue it is even better than Avatar, which came out in the same year). That movie even felt like I was playing a sweet first person shooter video game.

However, I need to talk about Chappie. Set in the very near future of Johannesburg (the same place as District 9), the movie starts out with interviews like District 9. I felt a little let down, as if Blomkamp did not strive for originality. Basically, crime in the city has been reduced a lot due to Robot Police Officers. They were made by Deon Wilson (Dev Patel), who wants to know if a robot could have a conscience (despite this great technology, Wilson’s home seems to have been invaded by the 1980s). As he discovers the secret, he is kidnapped by thugs (two of whom are called there real life names, Ninja and Yolandi). They need money to pay off a gangster (Brando Auret, who needs subtitles, although I could understand him without them). Wilson tries to help by making Chappie from spare parts of a broken police robot.

It is here that I mention perhaps my biggest (of many) problems. Characters like Chappie are made for us to like them and eventually love them (maybe even go “Awe” over). The character of Chappie seems to be FORCED upon us to like him. It is one thing to say “Here is our character, we hope you learn to love him.” It is quiet another to say “LOVE OUR CHARACTER! NOW!”

These characters are hard to love. Am I supposed to like Chappie and laugh when Ninja is teaching him to be a “gangsta”, or be repulsed? This whole movie seems like it was submitted as a first draft.

The film also stars Hugh Jackman as Vincent Moore, an employee of the company that makes the robots. He is upset that his boss (Sigourney Weaver) picked Wilson’s design over his. There are two reasons for this. The first is because he calls it the “Moose”. The second is, when you see this thing on screen, you will notice that no human being would ever authorize it past the blue print stage.

Parents, there is one scene of nudity, but it is not sexual and so brief I almost did not notice (it is on a TV in the background and lasts half a second at most). The swearing is another matter: it was all over. There is violence, some graphic, but mainly, it is the swearing. I would say High School is ok.

I was sitting next to a father who brought his son who could not have been more than 6 or 7. I guess I can’t blame him if he brought his son because they saw the first trailer. Still, I felt even worse than I knew this kid was not only seeing an R rated movie, but a movie that was not nourishing to him or anyone in the audience of any age.

As the movie progressed, I thought of a word to best describe the film. Here is a hint to the word: it rhymes with Chappie.

Overall: 1 Star *

Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)

Cade Yeager (as his farm is being searched for a transformer): Where is your warrant?

James Savoy: My face is my warrant.

 

Yes, this is actual dialogue from “Transformers: Age of Extinction”. I know, you don’t go to a Michael Bay movie for dialogue (or a plot, which we will get to), but “My face is my warrant”?!?! I turned to my brother (who was laughing with me) and told him this movie just lost all hope of being good (to be fair, I did not have much of it going in).

The first “Transformers” movie was actually good, in my mind. After seeing the second one (“Revenge of the Fallen”) I lost all hope for the rest of the films (I never saw the third one). In this new film, those who will be entertained will be those are either extreme fanboys (and I mean EXTREME), or those who want special effects over story, reason, sanity, and overall common sense.

I cannot describe the plot. I really can’t. Actually, I doubt there was one. It was like having a neighborhood kid show you all of his Transformers collection (which I would have preferred, because the kid would probably make a story that makes sense). From what I gathered, the humans (or, more accurately, the government) wants to make their own transfomers to get rid of the real Transformers. Bring in Mark Wahlberg as Cade Yeager, a mechanic who helps fix Optimus Prime (the main good transformer, for those who don’t know), his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) and her boyfriend Shane (Jack Reynor). Shane is supposed to be Irish, but he has an accent that lasts about 34 percent of the whole movie.

Other actors are thrown in to try to carry this film, including Stanley Tucci as Joshua Joyce, who is at first a bad guy, then a good guy, and Kelsey Grammer as Harold Attinger, the main politician who wants to rid the world of Transformers (the real ones). I don’t remember his official title: It was too loud to hear.

Now to the plot. There is none. At least none that I could find.

Let me put it this way: If it weren’t for IMDB, I would have no idea who was who in this movie.

Parents, I am sure you kids will like it (there is some swearing, and mild innuendo.) I feel there are much better movies though you can take them to.

The movie is also horribly long. If you go to a movie with me, you know I HATE IT when people have their cell phones on. This was the closest I ever got to having my cell phone out, and now I wish I had.

About a month before I saw this film, I had a kidney stone. Between the two, the kidney stone was more painful of course. Still, I at least had more faith in the kidney stone passing then I did this movie ending.

Rating: 1 Star *