The Emoji Movie (2017)

 

Emoji

Alex (Jake T. Austin) trying to find the right Emoji.

It is important to remember that, while the tomato meter at rottentomatoes.com is very helpful, it is not always right.

That is not to say that The Emoji Movie is good, only that it is not as terrible as people are making it out to be. Afterall, it takes a lot to make a movie about the inside of a smart phone. The Emoji Movie is clearly reminiscent of movies such as Toy Story (1995), Wreck it Ralph (2012), and Inside Out (2015). The ultimate difference is that those movies had wit and humor that was not forced down our throats. I think I cracked only two smiles during The Emoji Movie (and maybe a hint of a chuckle).

Those movies also had characters we liked and cared about. They were original, had a pep in their step. When I walked out of Inside Out, I went a long time thinking of my voices in my head. As a kid, it was years before I stopped looking at my toys and waiting for them to come alive. The next time I send an emoji, I will not be thinking about what happens to it after I send it.

It is perhaps of the greatest irony that the best way to describe The Emoji Movie is the main emoji himself, which is a “meh” emoji. His name is Gene (T.J. Miller). He is out to impress his parents (played by Steven Wright and Jennifer Coolidge). It is his first day on the job, waiting to see if the owner of the phone, Alex (Jake T. Austin) will use him in text. Gene freaks out, and messes up everything. After being chased out of textopolis by Smiley (Maya Rudolph), he and Hi-Five (a well cast James Corden) set off to find the cloud, with the help of Jailbreak (Anna Faris), who is hiding her own secret. In the mean time, Alex is out to impress his crush Addie (Tati Gabrielle) if only his phone would stop acting up.

Parents, the movie is fine for kids, but I still should warn that you yourselves would probably be undoubtably not entertained. It is still the premise that we have seen in all other movies: if you are to be yourself, you will be happy and succeed.

Perhaps the thing that makes me the most upset about The Emoji Movie is that it truly had so much potential. From what I read, the idea of the movie came up around 2015, meaning the movie could have possibly been rushed to the screen. If only it hadn’t. The writers could have given us clever humor, not mundane. It is not the worst movie of the year, but The Emoji Movie is clearly one of the blandest of the year.

 

Overall: Two Stars **

The Space Between Us (2017)

The Space between us

The chemistry between Butterfield and Robertson is rather good…

Asa Butterfield and Britt Robertson have rather great chemistry in The Space Between Us, but even that chemistry is bombarded by a very unstable script that does not know what the audience wants to see.

You would be hard pressed to find anyone who does not like an actor like Gary Oldman, but his scenes in the beginning go far too long. The movie tells the story of how Gardener Elliot (Butterfield), the first person born on Mars, comes to visit Earth. I can understand needing to know a little of how he got to be born on Mars, but the movie spends far too much time telling us about his mother (Janet Montgomery) leads the first mission to make a colony on Mars known as East Texas. His birth is supposed to be a secret, but he has managed to make a friendship with a girl on earth named Tulsa (Robertson), who has been in and out of foster care. Gardner mentions he is confided to home, due to an illness (which is technically true, since the gravity of Earth would mess up with his genetics).

After Gardner gets to Earth, and manages to make it to Tulsa (through uninteresting scenarios), we finally get to something worth watching. I am always a fan of good romance films (and am a proud sucker for “puppy love”), and the chemistry that Butterfield and Robertson has is the highlight of the film. Both work off each other with the skills of talented thespians (though both will get better with more work in the years to come). Neither are (in a sense) highly attractive, but are (oddly enough) much more down to earth.

Sadly, the other characters (including a mother like character played by Carla Gugino) reenter the film and bring the story down. I kept wishing the movie would have had a point of view, either from Gardner or Tulsa. Instead, we see them as outsiders.

Parents, there is some sensuality in the film (both leads are sleeping together in sleeping bags), and some swearing. Still, I would think the PG-13 rating is ok for those in Middle School and above.

Now a memo to my young readers. Please don’t be mad if I seem unaware of what a good romance movie can be. I want to say that you as young people can find far much better movies than this one. Films like Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, City Lights, Before Sunrise, It Happened One Night, Singin’ in the RainMoonrise Kingdom, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Princess Bride, A Walk to Remember, and even the High School Musical movies (though I would guess you have seen them).

Those were some I admit I was thinking of wanting to re watch while watching The Space Between Us.

 

Overall: Two Stars **

 

 

Get Out (2017)

get-out

Daniel Kaluuya is Chris, the new boyfriend of Rose (Allison Williams) in Get Out.

Ok, seriously, what did I miss here?

As I am writing this review, Get Out has a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Perhaps it is a good thing I am (as of now) not a paid movie critic, or it would not be at that perfect score.

Fifty years ago, a great movie called Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? was released with Spencer Tracy (his last film), Katharine Hepburn, and Sidney Poiter. That movie was about a woman who brings her fiance (Poiter) to meet her parents (Hepburn and Tracy). Throw in horror, cheesy chords of music, and some unreal acting, and you have Get Out.

The people in the movie are talented, indeed. You have Daniel Kaluuya as a photographer named Chris, who is dating Rose (Allison Williams). One weekend, she brings him to meet her parents out in the country. They are Missy and Dean (played, respectively, by Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford). There is also her brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones), who is creepy, and not, I am afraid, in a good way.

The movie did not scare me at all (save for one moment where it was a “gotcha” moment followed by a high music chord). The movie did, however, make me laugh a lot. This is mainly attributed to Chris’s best friend Rod (Lil Rey Howery). His timing and delivery are perfect, and it is him who had me interested as long as he was on-screen.

The other actors are good (I have always been a fan of Catherine Keener), but it is the party scene that ruined the movie for me. No one in their right mind acts the way Rose’s extended family does. I can’t say why the characters act the way they do without spoiling the movie, except to say that, when you find out the twist, you realize it could not have been anything else.

Parents, it is a hard R rating (no nudity or sex, just a lot of swearing and blood/gore). 17 and above.

It is true that many movies need more than one viewing to potentially appreciate it more. However, after seeing Get Out once, I don’t plan on seeing it again anytime soon.

Seriously, the title screen alone should serve as a warning.

 

Overall: Two Stars

Split (2017)

split

Dennis is lecturing Casey on what to expect in “Split”.

In a way, the career of M. Nigh Shyamalan has coincided perfectly with my growth as a movie goer. I was twelve when his movie The Sixth Sense was in theaters, but it would prove to be only one of two movies I would have seen of his on the big screen (the other being Signs). Word of mouth has stopped me from seeing films like The Village, Lady in the Water, and The Happening.

Now we arrive at Split, which I, like many, had some form of hope for going into the theater. I had heard that it was Shyamalan’s return to form, and proof that he may be back. He may be back, but not in a good way (though it is at least not as bad as The Last Airbender).

The movie starts out with three teenage girls Claire (Haley Lu Richardson, who was the best friend in The Edge of Seventeen), Marcia (Jessica Sula) and Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) leaving a party. Claire’s father (Neal Huff) is attacked, and the girls are kidnapped by a mysterious man called Dennis (James McAvoy). We soon learn that Dennis’s real name is Kevin, and he suffers from multiple personalities (Dennis is the dominant one).

Kevin is being treated by Dr. Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley), who is determined to prove that there are positive attributes to the mind of a person with multiple personalities. Ok, I know very little about psychology, but there is a lot that I don’t know if it is possible or not. There is even a moment when we see one of the personalities (I believe it was Jade) who explains (in a video diary) how it is weird she is the only one who needs an insulin shot for diabetes.

Shyamalan is known for giving us twists at the end, and Split is no exception. I won’t give anything away, but I will say that when we find out where he is keeping the girls, I found myself wondering how on earth could no one see him sneaking them in there in the first place? I also think they would be aware that someone such as Kevin would be having problems if they let him around there to begin with.

There are two positive aspects to the film, and both are two performances. James McAvoy is clearly a great actor, and gives a dynamic performance as all the personalities (though the movie says he suffers from 23 different personalities, we only get about nine, according to IMDB. So really what is the point of the other 14?) The other is the performance by Anya Taylor-Joy. Her Casey is the outcast of the three girls (the other two did not want to invite her to the party in the first place), yet we get flashbacks of past events in her childhood that are almost as disturbing as her current situation. Anya Taylor-Joy (who was also in 2016’s highly underrated and far better film The Witch) has scenes with McAvoy where you can sense even the veteran thespian is seeming impressed with the younger actress. Remember her name, because she does have potential to be a bright star in Hollywood.

Parents, the movie is PG-13 mainly for the thematic elements and swearing. There is blood, but not tons of it. The girls are also asked to remove clothing (Dennis hates dirt, even on clothes), so they are forced to be without a shirt or pants. Basically, High School and above, though there are better movies for anyone of any age.

Had the movie been only about kidnapping Casey (the other girls were superfluous, though the actresses are still talented), and the personality count been reduced, the movie may have been a little better. Still, there are too many things wrong with this movie for me to recommend it. Better yet, go to Redbox, On Demand, or Netflix and see if either have the movie The Witch (if not, go to the local video store). That  is far more worth your time if you want a good scare.

Overall: Two Stars **

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Batman vs Superman Dawn of Justice

An epic meeting of Clark Kent (Henry Cavill), Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) and Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck).

I had a sneaky suspicion that I would not really like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. What I did not expect was how much disappointment I would feel after the credits started rolling.

I was ok with 2013’s Man of Steel (a lot better than Superman Returns), which is where this film starts off. The film begins (after showing the title of the film in a not interesting way, which was one of a number of let downs) showing us what happens to Bruce Wayne’s parents (I doubt there is anyone reading this who did not know they were gunned down in front of young Bruce’s eyes). Flash forward to the ending battle of Man of Steel (with a title card totally not needed) as Superman (Henry Cavill) was battling General Zod (Michael Shannon). It is seen, however, thru the eyes of the adult Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck).

Fast forward 18 months later, and we see Lois Lane (Amy Adams) in trouble in the middle east, but is saved by Superman. We later see (minor spoiler) that Kent and Lane are living together, meaning she has found out who Clark Kent really is (End minor spoiler). Kent wants to investigate more into the actions of Batman, while Batman (Bruce Wayne, which, again, is not a spoiler) is trying to prove that Superman really could be the destruction of us all.

The cast is not to fault here. There were a lot of haters who were upset that Ben Affleck was cast as Batman. I was not one of them, and am glad I was proven right. There are times when you can catch yourself not seeing him as Ben Affleck but as Bruce Wayne/Batman. Cavill does some equally good work as well. Other actors include Laurence Fishburn as Perry White, Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor (he is not in Gene Hackman territory but he is still very effective), Holly Hunter as a Senator worried about Superman’s existence, Diane Lane as Martha Kent, and Jeremy Irons (who I have yet to see give a bad performance) giving one of my favorite portrayals as Alfred ever put on film. There is also Gal Gadot as Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman (I doubt I am spoiling it, because it is already out there in the ads).

Eventually, we know the fight between the two biggest superheroes in history will happen, and it is rather spectacular to watch. Still, watching the movie was like watching a juggler. Anyone who can juggle three items is more fun to watch that someone who only juggles two. The movie seems to be trying to juggle 14 or so at a time. When you realize why these two icons have to fight, you are not as pumped up as you should be.

Parents, the only real issue is Clark Kent getting into a bathtub with Lois Lane. She is naked (nothing shown below the neck), he has clothes on. They kiss. End scene. Also, the costume Wonder Woman wears is a little revealing, but nothing bad at all. Basically, if you kids want to see the film, they should be fine (ten years old and up).

Like all action films, this one goes on for quiet a long time. It is made by Zach Snyder (who made Man of Steel), a director who is very good at making the frosted topping, but not the rest of the cake. There are obviously good superhero movies for DC (Superman, The Dark Knight Trilogy, and the highly underrated Batman: Mask of the Phantasm). In this film, very little justice is done.

It is not overwhelming, nor completely underwhelming. It is just whelming…still closer to the under part though.

Overall: Two Stars **

 

Race (2016)

Race

Stephan James stars as Jesse Owens right before a “Race”.

Going into Race, I realized I knew very little about Jesse Owens, other than he went to the 1936 Olympics and was most popular track and field star of all time. The movie does a good job of informing us what happend but not the best job of entertaining us. In the entertainment department, it just barely gives us a bronze.

Jesse Owens is portrayed well by actor Stephan James. We see him start off for Ohio State, and meet Coach Larry Snyder. Snyder is played by comedy actor Jason Sudeikis, who has never been in a dramatic role before. He is talented, but still seems to be adjusting away from comedy. His performance is not memorable, but not to the point of awful.

Basically, we know the movie will end up going to the 1936 Olympic games, helped by the US Olympic commitee’s vote to go there. The man in charge of making sure it happens is Avery Brundage played by Jeremy Irons in a fine performance (then again, whenn does Irons give a bad performance?)

The thing I mainly disliked about the film is the screenplay. It is a formula sports film that gives us the troubled star (I am sure he had more troubles than just race: they never mentio the fact that he was a heavy smoker), a coach with a troubled past, and outside political tensions (we see Goebels, but Hitler is only in the background.

The racing (and jumping scenes) are well done. They are in real time, and not slow motion. Like any track event, they are done before you know it (unlike the film, which is too long even at just over two hours).

Parents, there is swearing, but nothing really sexual (besides one minor dancing scene which is not bad at all). Pre teens and above would be ok, but this is more of a movie to wait till it comes out to watch at home.

I end by restating how long the movie is. Maybe it was because it was a late showing, but the biggest laugh I heard in the theater was a loud snoring. Or, perhaps, it was because the movie felt like a marathon instead of a sprint.

Overall: Two Stars **

From Up on Poppy Hill (2011)

Two teens make a connection, "From up on Poppy Hill"

Two teens make a connection, “From up on Poppy Hill”

While the animation is stellar, and the relationship between the characters (especially the main two characters) are nice to behold, the story is really a bore.

It tells the story of two teenagers who try to work together and save an old building on campus from being destroyed to get ready for the 1964 Olympics. This is from the studio who gave imaginary masterpieces like Spirited Away, Castle in the Sky, and My Neighbor Totoro.

That is not to say the movie is bad. It is just not up to par with the other films of Studio Ghibli. There is not much here bad for kids, parents. There just is not as much nourishment as in the other films.

Overall: Two Stars **

Terminator Genisys (2015)

He said he would be back.

He said he would be back.

“People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but *actually* from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint- it’s more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly, time-y wimey…stuff.”

Doctor Who

I should thank the film Terminator Genisys, since I have been waiting to use that quote in a review for some time (I am a huge fan of Doctor Who).

This was actually the first Terminator film I saw in theaters (I was not born when the first came out, only four when the second was out, and have yet to see the other films). I did not have much hope for this film (I feel it should have ended after T2: Judgement Day, arguably one of the best sequels ever made). Half way through the film, I realized I was right, but I also came to the conclusion that I wish I was wrong.

The movie does have its positive aspects, the main one being that, in his late 60s (!), Arnold Schwarzenegger still has the ability to kick butt and take no prisoners. His character assures us that he is “old, not obsolete”, and his actions more than back that line up. He stars as the latest Terminator, (the credits show him as “Guardian”). The rest of the cast do the best they can, but really, the fault here is the script. I will not describe it entirely, because I am still confused by it. All I will say is that it makes the other films seem unimportant.

I am always ok with films that make you think a lot (“Minority Report“, “Inception“, “Memento“), but it has to be fun to think a lot about the film. Terminator Genisys had too many issues that made it hard for me to like it (mainly the choice of a villain, which I thought was a huge let down).

Parents, the film is PG-13 (obvious that there is violence and swearing, and a little sexual stuff), but I would not take kids to see this unless they have at least seen the first two films, which were stand alone films by themselves. Have them see those films (when they are old enough, of course). Those are what film goers will love to remember most of all, and what Arnold was, and always will be, most famous for.

Overall: Two Stars **

San Andreas (2015)

Dwayne Johnson is the one unbreakable "rock" in "San Andreas".

Dwayne Johnson is the one unbreakable “rock” in “San Andreas”.

Poor San Francisco.

Just one year after Godzilla destroyed you (well, not on purpose), you are now vulnerable to an earthquake in San Andreas. I for one think San Francisco deserves a romantic comedy or drama now.

San Andreas stars Dwayne Johnson (you know, “The Rock”) as Ray, a search and rescue pilot. He is getting over the loss of one of his daughters, and is in the process of divorcing his wife Emma (Carla Gugino). She is moving in with a “seemingly” nice guy named Daniel Riddick (Ioan Gruffudd). Riddick is taking Ray’s other daughter, Blake (Alexandra Daddario) to college. Meanwhile, a Geology professor (the always good Paul Giamatti) has discovered a way to finally detect earthquakes before they happen. Sadly, he discovers this just as the earthquake that will “be felt on the east coast” begins.

I am not one who approves of talking much in movies, but sometimes, when a movie is so predictable, I can’t help myself. For example, just before the earthquake hits, Blake will meet Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt), a one in a million guy who you would be a fool to think they won’t eventually fall for each other. He is traveling to San Francisco with his little brother Ollie (a good scene stealing young actor named Art Parkinson) from England.

The special effects are kind of cool to look at, but nothing we have not seen in other disaster movies. There were times I was thinking this movie should have almost been made on the Syfy station on TV (and you are talking here to a fan of Sharknado, people).

One of the things that disappointed me the most was Dwayne Johnson. He truly is a good, overlooked actor. Audiences (myself included) love to see him lay the smackdown (yeah, I watch wrestling from time to time), but, now, in his forties, we can start to maybe see him getting a little deeper with his characters.

Parents, there is some swearing and (obvious) violence, but no real sexual content (despite some cleavage). I would say middle school and above would be fine seeing it. Keep in mind, there are better movies out there. San Andreas is not a terrible film, but a forgettable one.

A while ago, I saw an old movie from the 1930s called San Francisco that was based on an actual earthquake (with Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy). Now I have seen San Andreas. Wow, have times changed.

Overall: Two Stars **

Tomorrowland (2015)

Disney's TOMORROWLAND..Casey (Britt Robertson) ..Ph: Film Frame..?Disney 2015

Casey, played by Britt Robertson, visits Tomorrowland.

The trailer for Tomorrowland gave me hopes of a sleeper hit for the summer, but left me with a distaste in my mouth.

While the movie has great visuals, you would expect the film (directed by Brad Bird, who turned down the new Star Wars film to make this one) to spend much time in Tomorrowland, but you don’t. It also manages to deliver a message that has been given to us in other (and better) films: we decide our future as humans.

The film opens up as a monologue (that is interrupted, confusing me a bit). We see a young Frank Welker (Thomas Robinson) at the 1964 Worlds Fair. He is greeted by Athena (a very talented Raffey Cassidey), who introduces him to Tomorrowland. The narrating then shifts to present day where we meet Casey (Britt Robertson), who is arrested after trying to stop the destruction of a launch site. One thing that confused me a great deal was Casey’s age: I was not sure if she was in High School or College (Robertson in real life is 25).

She eventually meets up with Athena (who we learn is a robot) and they meet up with the grown up Frank Welker (George Clooney) as they search for another way back to Tomorrowland. We also meet Nix, played by Hugh Laurie, who has fun asking how the human race could have obesity and starvation happening at the same time.

If you saw the trailer for this film, and were expecting a lot of futuristic art work and CGI, I must sadly tell you there is not much of it. I admit sometimes I like it when a movie is not like the trailer (I thought of the underrated Bridge to Terabithia), but not here. I see a futuristic city in a film’s trailer, I expect a good amount of that futuristic city to be in the film. There are two cool scenes on earth, however, involving a Sci-Fi shop and a house booby-trapped to perfection.

Parents, there is some swearing, and some action/scary moments that I feel may be too much for anyone pre kindergarden. Sadly, the film won’t appeal much to anyone over the age of thirteen or fourteen either. I do agree with the lesson of the movie, but not how it was told (nor, for that matter, how long it took to tell it. At just over two hours, it felt like it lasted for three).

Overall: Two Stars **