Tag Archives: Rotten Tomatoes

The Exception [Trailer Review]

Outlook: Simple, but possibly pleasing

Director: David Leveaux

Cast: Lily James, Jai Courtney, Christopher Plummer, Ben Daniels, & Eddie Marsan.

Whenever the A24 logo appears, I pay attention. When I noticed that The Exception takes place during World War II, I was sold. After watching the trailer, the plot appears fairly basic: Forbidden love, dark secrets, and a mysterious man who may end up being the villain.

Receiving little information from the trailer, I will go see this movie because I’m willing to fully place my faith in A24 to produce another solid film after having success across varied genres such as VVitch, Ex Machina, Room, 20th Century Women, Locke, and Moonlight. However, we must all remember that not all of the studio’s films have been well received by critics and audiences. Take Trespass Against Us or Mojave. Both films displeased their respective viewers despite sporting strong casts and interesting plots.

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I’m a fan of Christopher Plummer and The Exception’s trailer is reminiscent of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo which is one of my all time favorite films. Placing my bias aside, The Exception has the potential to be great if David Leveaux can balance the atmosphere of mystery that the trailer cultivates alongside the themes of love and duty.  However, The Exception may be the opposite of its namesake, relying upon the well-worn trope of star-crossed lovers and devolving into a half-boiled thriller.

Overall, I’m cautiously hopeful. Let us know your thoughts.

For trailer, see below.

By Hagood Grantham

The Last Jedi [Teaser Trailer]

Outlook: Face-melting excitement

Director: Rian Johnson

Cast: Mark Hamill, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher, Benicio Del Toro, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Gwendoline Christie, & Kelly Marie Tran

Last Jedi Poster.jpg

Hagood’s Review: 

To be perfectly honest, I cried when Rian Johnson introduced the trailer for Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi at Star Wars Celebration Orlando. I am beyond excited for this movie. But I must steel myself and try to be logical.  I was equally excited for The Force Awakens and after three viewings of it, I must admit, I’m a bit let down. Rogue One was a much stronger movie and I’m hoping that Kathleen Kennedy and Lucas Film have learned that Finn’s modern dialogue/humor and a hackneyed plot do not belong in the Star Wars universe.

Now, to the trailer. It begins during Rey’s training. The first shot shows her scared and out of breath with Luke’s voice telling her to breath. This harkens back to Luke’s training on Dagobah when he entered the cave to face his fear. I’m sure Luke will not take his training of Rey lightly, especially after losing all his former padawans to Kylo and his Knights of Ren. He’ll want to overly train her so she can survive another bout with the new Dark Lord. Also, during The Last Jedi panel, Mark Hamill mentioned that Daisy was his “dog” then he caught himself and said “companion,” which I’m sure means Luke puts Rey through hell.

I was quite fond of the shot of Rey standing above the sea pit during another training session and the next shot of her training with the lightsaber as Luke looks on. Kylo’s crushed and smoldering helmet is certainly intriguing. Why did Kylo destroy it? Does he feel he finally realize that he needs to forge his own path instead of trying to follow Vader’s? Was he even the one who destroyed it?

Also, what are in the Jedi scrolls Rey touches? How did Luke get them? Didn’t the Sith destroy them after they executed Order 66? I was happy to hear Rian Johnson say that The Last Jedi will uncover more of Rey’s backstory. That was another one of my qualms with The Force Awakens. It just stated stuff (i.e. Maz having Luke’s lightsaber) without backing things up. Some mystery is fine, but I hope this movie substantiates such plot holes.

There was a distinctly Mad Max-esque shot on a desert plain that seemed to have AT-AT’s in the distance fighting Alliance (?) land speeders. This match-up will hopefully best The Force Awakens land-air battle between The First Order and the Alliance on Maz Kanata’s planet of Takodana. I found that battle to be an unfulfilling tease due to a great set-up but poor payoff.

Another question that arose for me was the fire scene at the end. Was that a flashback to the Knights of Ren destroying Luke’s training academy or in the present? Thankfully Kylo is back (my favorite character) and he seemed to be in the present because you could see the scar on his face that Rey dealt him.

Finally, what does Luke mean by “It’s time for the Jedi to end?” Does he mean they need to evolve like the Sith did when they transformed into the Knights of Ren? Or does he mean something completely different?

I loved this trailer. This is how trailers are supposed to be made. It gave away no plot, but instead raised many questions without answering them. Kudos to Disney, Lucas Film, Kathleen Kennedy, and Rian Johnson. I cannot wait for The Last Jedi. 

Saul’s Review:

Given the striking opening to this trailer, The Last Jedi may be the best directed Star Wars film so far.

In the teaser trailer, we see the First Order retaliate following their loss of Starkiller Base, mirroring The Empire Strikes Back. Captain Phasma walks towards a burning settlement while a rebel base is attacked. Clearly the First Order are going to be a far more ubiquitous menance in this film, instead of threatening the galaxy via a doomsday weapon hidden on a remote planet. It would be interesting to see the First Order begin to take over more of the galaxy, and finally expand beyond the edges of space. Hopefully, we will not lose old man Luke Skywalker due to the First Order’s wrath.

I have two questions following the trailer. Firstly, what will Finn’s role be? He briefly appears in what seems to be a medical capsule, but no other information is given. More importantly, does Luke’s belief that the Jedi must end mean that he is now between the lightside and the darkside? If he is, what new order will emerge?

For the trailer, see below:

 

Free Fire

Movie Score: 4 out of 5 (Excellent)

Director: Ben Wheatley

Executive producer: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Arnie Hammer, Ben Wheatley, Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Michael Smiley, Noah Taylor, & Sharlto Copley

Free Fire is one long Mexican stand-off between gun smugglers and I.R.A. members after a deal goes south. Trapped together in the confines of a disused factory upon the dilapidated waterfront of 1970’s Boston, Free Fire is a more refined version of Reservoir Dogs. Laced with humour, especially from South African gun smuggler Vernon (Sharlto Copley), Free Fire is a refreshing romp that other action films could learn from. Ben Wheatley delivers a brilliant action film which does not attempt to be overly serious or complex.

By sporting such a large cast including well-known and recognisable actors, Free Fire risked becoming filled with half-developed characters acting as padding for the plot. Yet Free Fire’s setting of a locked room is the film’s biggest strength. It focuses our attention towards the battle to survive, leaving only a few brief pauses where we learn about the many characters through interactions and scraps of dialogue. Given the backdrop, the characters feel real as they squabble, try to outsmart their opponents, or simply survive.

Having been a fan of Ben Wheatley since A Field in England, it seems that pitting characters in a closed environment is becoming one of Wheatley’s tropes.

The action stands out in Free Fire. Instead of being a slick set of choreographed scenes, characters fire haphazardly and nervously as they scramble for cover, while bullets ricochet off the walls. No one is smoothly despatched in the film. Every character suffers injury upon injury which adds to the film’s dark humour. Nor is the film purely focused around the action. Subplots of romance, betrayal and rivalry quickly emerge between characters before and in between the shooting.

The cast all deliver great performances, but Sharlto Copley, as bumbling and arrogant South African gun runner Vernon, steals the show. Arnie Hammer (Ord) was a suprising favourite due to his rivalry with hardened IRA member Frank (Michael Smiley). Although Free Fire is an action-comedy which has no main character, there is no competition between the cast to be the comic relief, as each character has their own moment to shine.

There are a few moments near the end, where Free Fire‘s pace begins to falter, but otherwise this an enjoyable film.

Free Fire is a great film that you should go see while it is in the cinema.

By Saul Shimmin

For the trailer, see below:

All Eyez on Me (2017) – Teaser

Outlook: Exciting, but uncertain

Director: Benny Boom

Cast: Demetrius Shipp Jr., Dominic L. Santana, & Jamal Woolard

I’m a huge Tupac fan, and I’ve been hankering for a movie focusing on the legend ever since Straight Outta Compton. This trailer paints a very exciting picture, but everyone involved with the project is largely untested. Director Benny Boom best known movies are B knockoffs like S.W.A.T.: Firefight and Next Day Air. The best thing he has going for him are his music video credits that include 50 Cent’s “Just a Lil Bit” and Ciara’s “1, 2 Step.” In other words, he understands the hip-hop community well. My other reservations include the cast. All Eyez on Me is Demetrius Shipp Jr.’s first movie and while he is Tupac’s doppelganger, that doesn’t guarantee an accurate or convincing portrayal of Tupac.

I’ll still happily go see it. I loved 2009’s Notorious that critics gave a middling 51% on Rotten Tomatoes. Us critics aren’t always right, so don’t take my words too seriously. Enjoy the trailer and I’ll let you know in June whether my fears are warranted.

Life

Life is another addition to the sci-fi, creature feature/suspense category. The film begins with with a team aboard the International Space Station waiting to receive a probe carrying sediment samples from Mars. The team soon discovers that the samples carry a dormant, single-cell life form, the first life to be discovered outside of Earth. After introducing the cell to different environments, the team’s lead scientist, Hugh (Ariyon Bakare) awakens the cell and begins to nurture it. After accidentally frightening the alien, known as Calvin, enters survival mode and death ensues.

Movie Score: 2.5 out of 5 (Average) 

 

–Spoilers Ahead–

While Life‘s special effects were breathtaking and often horrifying, I believe the movie’s screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (the duo behind the fantastic films Zombieland and Deadpool) missed an opportunity to delve deeper into the dark recesses of humanity. They touched upon certain aspects of our existence: humans feelings of hatred, procreation, love, and unquestioning duty to protect one another. They even rationalized Calvin’s quest to massacre the crew as a survival-of-the-fittest reaction. However, they failed to appropriately address the humans’ survival instinct, leaving a rich topic untouched.

The writers’ first mistake was failing to provide themselves with the right characters to correctly portray life and enter the complex waters of humans’ animalistic survival-instincts. The International Space Station’s crew consisted of a bunch of overly rational, “good people.” CDC doctor, Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson), who lived and died by her adherence to the code of her employer, pilot-come-physician, David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal) who wanted to remain on the ISS and away from Earth, Sho Muraki (Hiroyuki Sananda) who’s wife just had a baby (that’s all we learn about Sho), the scientist Hugh Darry who loved other creatures (he was a good guy with an optimistic outlook despite being a paraplegic), the Russian who was kind, Ekaterina Golovkina (Olga Dihovichnaya), and Ryan Reynolds’ character Rory Adams who mostly acted like Ryan Reynolds. The writers created no gray characters, people who were willing to put their survival before their crew-mates. I realize there might be one or two “good” people on a crew of six, but lacking at least one selfish guy/gal, who is willing to sacrifice others to escape Calvin, is not only unrealistic, but boring.

Despite eventually realizing they needed to kill Calvin to survive, the crew always seemed to do so without any ethical conundrums. The closest the astronauts came to a dilemma occurred when Calvin first turned hostile in the lab. Despite some self-sacrifices by members of the crew to save the others, I never believed their acts of “love.” Their uniform kindness made them unbelievable as characters because humans are not so pure. We are sinful creatures at heart.

The writers should have created a greedy, evil, sinful character to match Calvin’s ferocity, to overturn all the “goodness” and “humanity” on the International Space Station. For a moment, I thought Sho was going to be that character, but the script never clarified if his attempt to reach the lifeboat was an act of selfishness or stupidity.

In sum,  Life failed to showcase humanity’s darkside, the side that executed the Holocaust, the side that commits terrorism on a daily basis, the side that massacred Native Americans at Wounded Knee. Instead, every crew member lived by their code, played nice, and died nice.

This is not to say the movie didn’t have its moments. In actuality, I enjoyed many parts of the film. I truly relished how Reese and Wernick overturned many of the monster genre’s conventions. For example, they didn’t allow the crew’s minority members to die first. Though the movie’s finish wasn’t unexpected, they managed to add a pleasant twist and resist the happy ending trope. Also, some of the crew’s deaths were quite imaginative, and I dug seeing Calvin’s motivation for murder (survival) grow .

By Hagood Grantham

For the trailer, see below:

Atomic Blonde (2017) – Teaser

Outlook: Most promising trailer of 2017 (so far)

Director: David Leitch

Cast: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Toby Jones, & Eddie Marsan

Atomic Blonde‘s opening fight scene harkens back to the early Bourne movies mixed with the bloody violence of John Wick. Its cinematography blends Zach Snyder’s pre-D.C. movies (Watchmen300Sucker Punch) with the stark quality of Bourne. I’m quite excited for this film because it appears to have a sense-of-self unlike many run of the mill spy/action movies.

The most negative aspect of the trailers is its plot, which appears to be a product of the trite lovers-revenge formula, which would normally be a bummer. However, its intense action and sex, coupled with the possibility of some good, dry British humor make me hopeful. I also enjoyed the neon signage that is reminiscent of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive and Neon Demon. Leitch put together a stellar cast that, by itself, does not guarantee success, but it does increase my desire to see it.

The largest unknown for Atomic Blonde is its director. Leitch only has an “uncredited” direction credit for John Wick. His career has  so far largely centered in stunt work where he has been a stunt-man, stunt-coordinator, and action choreographer for 82 titles in movies, TV shows, and video games. His only upcoming title is Deadpool 2, which means Fox has a ton of faith in him to put him at the helm of such a large cash-cow.

I’m choosing to side with Fox & Universal and believe that Leitch’s prodigious stunt experience will produce a quality action flick.

For trailer, see below.

By Hagood Grantham

Geostorm (2017) – Teaser

Outlook: Utter garbage

Director: Dean Devlin

Cast: Gerard Butler, Abbie Cornish, Ed Harris, & Andy Garcia

Hollywood must need a payday. Geostorm delivers our yearly disaster-movie that copies, almost frame for frame, the 2004 disaster film, Day After Tomorrow. The only alteration to its story is its storms’ origin. Day After Tomorrow‘s storms were a result of climate change, whereas Geostorm‘s occur due to a malfunctioning weather machine. Everything else appears unchanged.

Dean Devlin wrote and directs the movie. Devlin is a disaster film veteran, but this trailer reveals that he has learned little from his long career. His writing and production credits include Independence Day, Godzilla (’98)and 2016’s pitiful Independence Day: Resurgence. His filmography has been on a downward trajectory and I would wager Geostorm will continue this trend.

I reckon with Warner Bros. struggles with the subpar results from its D.C. properites, they’re looking for a sure payoff, but this movie will not be it. Its only solid star is Ed Harris and I doubt his name will connect with Geostorm‘s target audience: teenagers.

The movie’s CGI is beautiful, a prerequisite for a disaster film, so the movie might breakeven. The trailer does its job showing the correct amount of stern expressions, massive storms, and impending death, but I just can’t get past its hackneyed story elements that line up with Day After Tomorrow‘s plot: The tornadoes are identical to the ones that ravage LA and the tidal wave that appears at the end of the trailer is indistinguishable from the one that floods NYC.

The movie is due out in October 20, 2017. I will be seeing something else that day.

Deadpool 2 (2018) – Teaser

Outlook: Insanely great

Director: David Leitch

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Maria Baccarin, & David Harbour

20th Century Fox smartly placed this teaser in between Logan‘s trailers and the starting scene of Logan with no MPAA green splash screen. Without the screen, its start appeared to be the opening scene of Logan, so when Wade Wilson removes his hood, its a total surprise. I fell over in my seat laughing from the shock. The teaser epitomizes what Deadpool stands for: subverting the superhero genre through ruthless mocking. This trailer specifically mocks Superman, Spiderman, Stan Lee cameos, and of course, Wolverine. The trailer continues Deadpool‘s  awesomely crude humor with my favorite line being- “Zip it, Stan Lee!”

Things to note:

  1. On the phone booth someone has written “Nathan Summers cumming soon.” According to Wikipedia, Nathan Summers is an antagonist in the X-Men universe and his superhero name is Cable. I don’t know much about comic lore as I’ve never read one, but go to Wikipedia to learn more.
  2. The Firefly posters in the window behind the phone-booth. I’m sure this is a nod to Morena Baccarin’s most famous role besides her role as Wade’s girlfriend, Vanessa.
  3. The Deadpool Cliff Notes version of The Old Man and the Sea. In it Wade humorously harps on the similarities between the Old Man’s bad luck with the fish and his bad luck with Vanessa in Deadpool. Parts of it also sound like Donald Trump’s tweets. I’m not sure the connection there, but it is definitely worth a read.

Deadpool 2 is scheduled to be released sometime in 2018. Can’t come fast enough.

 

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017) – Teaser

Outlook: Shamefully Poor

Directors: Joachim Rønning & Espen Sandburg

Cast: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom (rumored), Javier Bardem, Geoffrey Rush, & David Wenham

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales comes out on my birthday. May 26 has seen the release of many great summer blockbusters, including a few Star War films. Thankfully, this year I will be in India, where I will hopefully not be near a theater playing this movie.

Disney is really scraping the bottom of the (rum) barrel with this fifth installment in the Pirates franchise. The trailer proclaims that this is Jack Sparrow’s “Final Adventure.” I certainly hope their statement is true.

The trailer repeats the plot of the franchise’s predecessors: Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) running away from some half-dead man who is out to kill him. Javier Bardem’s character, Spanish Captain Salazar, could easily be exchanged for Geoffrey Rush’s skeletal-zombie Barbossa from the first film, or Bill Nighy’s mutated Davy Jones from Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End. Salazar looks like a mix between these two previous villains.

I would gladly open my wallet for Jack Sparrow if Disney put him on a different adventure. I thoroughly enjoyed the first film and liked the third one as they were different and fun. The second and fourth, Dead Man’s Chest On Stranger Tides, bored me because of their lacking plots, tired dialogue, and flat characters. I wanted to leave both. This movie, like those predecessors, looks fatigued.

The only part of the trailer that interested me was the introduction. I would love if this movie utilized a more historically accurate story instead of mystical elements and zombie villains. That would be a welcome change. Young Jack Sparrow looked like a stone-cold badass. I want more of him.

Sadly, it appears Disney is sticking to the formula that they know works. They’re even attempting to revive the Elizabeth Swan-Will Turner relationship without Kiera Knightley and Orlando Bloom. At least those two actors have the sense to stay away from a bad movie. It appears Johnny Depp either doesn’t care or needs the money to help maintain his stupidly opulent lifestyle.

I’m a HUGE Disney fan and I strongly believe it is a mistake to continue this franchise with such a recycled story. I hope that I’m wrong.

By Hagood Grantham

 

It Comes At Night -Teaser

Outlook: Spine chillingly good

Director: Trey Edward Shults

Cast: Joel Edgerton, Riley Keough, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, Kelvin Harrison Jr.

In the wake of The VVitch and The Blackcoat’s Daughter, A24 has been developing a fine pedigree in the horror genre. It Comes At Night looks to be the darkest horror film produced by A24 so far.

The film’s premise is that two families, escaping an unknown menace ravaging America, find refuge together in an isolated hut. Yet the threat outside their shelter is quickly overshadowed by the enmity and paranoia which develops between them all.

It Comes At Night is directed and written by Trey Edward Shults, a rising director who gained critical acclaim for his debut film Krisha, about an estranged woman trying to reconnect with her family. Brandishing a larger budget for his second film, Shults has crafted a post-apocalyptic horror which borrows heavily from The Road, which is one of my favourite films. From the teaser trailer alone, both films explore the themes of family, love, and survival in a brooding and eerie post-apocalyptic setting where danger is everywhere. One scene in the teaser trailer, where the camera silently pans down a dimly corridor adorned by family photos, is reminiscent of the cannibal’s house in The Road.

Unlike The Road, where the apocalypse is caused by an unknown cataclysm, It Comes At Night suggests an unknown, but palpable force is sweeping across the world. Horror films have been using the trope of an unseen menace since The Blair Witch Project,  to create the monster in the audience’s own imagination.

Horror based on suggestion is effective but also destructive. The trope creates a subjective expectation of what the menace is, which often surpasses the final reveal and renders a film anti-climatic. The better horror films which rely on suggestion conclude without any revelation. Paranormal Activity did an excellent job in crafting the house’s dark presence without divulging anything at the film’s end.

It Comes At Night bears the challenge of delivering upon the threat outside, without the revelation being disappointing or jarring with plot’s slow-paced tension. Regardless, I am excited to see this film on release, and from the trailer alone, Trey Edward Shults has the potential to be a great director.

By Saul Shimmin

For the trailer, see below: