The Circle #review

There are a few times of the year when a movie is released that leave me wondering if it will be a hit or a bust. January through March, August and September are the months that can either surprise me or provide a subpar movie experience I’ve come to expect. These are the months that make movie reviewing feel like actual work. So, did “The Circle” fall into the category of surprise or disappointment? Let’s dive in and take a look in this review…

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The director, James Ponsoldt, doesn’t have a resume that is impressive enough to make me comfortable with a cast of this caliber. This is actually the second film of his I’ve reviewed. The first review being “The End of the Tour” back in 2015. This review is for a film considerably different in that this is a fictional story based on the idea of an information company akin to “Google” slowly growing in power and influence. The other is about a writer and his life. It’s clear that the stories are different however they are similar in that both films are character based stories. Neither film is action oriented. Perhaps it was the size of the cast that was the stumbling block for James to get real emotions conveyed on screen in this movie. Clearly, we cannot blame the actors because they are talented. Some are established, some up and coming, but all of them are talented. So I place the flat, almost two dimensional, delivery of each character squarely on Ponsoldt’s shoulders. We as the audience should have enjoyed intense, stressful, thought provoking characters and dialogue. Instead, we are left staring at the big screen in wonder at how so much talent can act with such mediocrity.

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The overall movie was not well constructed either. The screenplay was adapted from a book and often much is left out in transition from page to screen. I think everyone who has read a book and then watched the movie thought to themselves, or perhaps said to a neighbor or friend, “The book is better and has so much more to the story.” This movie felt like they took only the important chapters and then shot the film. The story didn’t really flow and it felt choppy. We meet characters but then certain ones change without real explanation (Karen Gillan), or they don’t have much to do in the film but are integral to the overall plot (John Boyega). It’s very disjointed and that’s unfortunate. I’m sure the book is great. I haven’t read it but they decided to make a movie from it so something has to be in the pages that made this story worthwhile. Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t capture whatever the magic of the book is at all. In fact, the ending is so abrupt the only character to mirror the emotion of the film at any actual point is “Stenton” played by Patton Oswalt. He has one last line in the film right at the end, then walks off screen. That about sums up this film. Just one thing after another happening with no rhythm or flow.

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The Circle” in theaters now! I don’t recommend people see this film on the big screen. If you wish to watch it in the comfort of your own home, go for it. I was disappointed in this film because the talent was there to make this something truly worthwhile and it didn’t deliver. It was probably my most disappointing film to watch in 2017 so far. I’m even bummed out while writing this review. I really wanted to enjoy this film and instead I was bored and let down. No bueno folks. No bueno at all.

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Free Fire #review

The story takes place in Boston, 1978. A deal is agreed upon and the gun sellers, the gun buyers and the facilitators meet at a warehouse late at night. Things do not go as planned and the movie is off and running. So did the entire story keep my attention? Can a story about arms dealing in Boston circa 1978 be entertaining? Let’s take a look at “Free Fire” in this review…

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I wasn’t sure what I would get from this film as the marketing campaign wasn’t aggressive. Most people I spoke with were not aware of this film either. The film is credited as an Action, Crime, Thriller. While I agree with that description, there is also an element of comedy that must be acknowledged. The comedic writing for this film was dry and delightful. I believe the humor is what elevates it from an action, crime, thriller to a memorable indie film that people will be talking about for awhile. For me, this was a hidden gem in the early months leading into summer blockbusters. Plus, the rewatchability factor for this film is high (in my opinion).

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The characters in this film are each unique. They have a specific flair they add to every scene they are in and, for the most part, they are all in the majority of the film. The bulk of the story takes place in a warehouse and so we are treated to these characters for as long as each one survives, with a few surprises. This film did completely catch me off guard with the realization that Armie Hammer and Sharito Copley are a pair I want to see more of on screen. Their chemistry, matched with the clever writing, was superb. I want to see them in more action comedies together. I could not believe how much I enjoyed the dry delivery of Hammer against the anxious and excitable Copley. It is a great pairing and if we get more films with them acting against each other I think we’ll be in for a treat.

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The story doesn’t ask much from us as viewers which was nice. It’s direct and to the point with a few surprises. There is a brief bit in the middle of the second act where the pacing lags but overall it’s definitely entertaining. The run time for this film is only 90 minutes and I’m pleased to report that, aside from the middle bit I just mentioned, the film’s pacing makes 90 minutes feel like 70-80. The action, the laughs and the tension all make the plot move and make the overall experience a positive one. For a smaller budget indie film, I appreciated the practical effects and how well they were executed. The gun fire, the explosions, the fire and the injuries all were reminiscent of action films in the 1980’s when practical effects were the normal and for that I couldn’t be happier with this film.

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Free Fire” is in theaters now! I definitely recommend you get out and see this film in theaters and support indie. If you have ever thought or said, “There’s nothing new in theaters. Every movie is just a remake or sequel to something else.” Leave your couch. Get out of bed. Get off the toilet and go see this movie. These are the surprise movies, we as movie fans, wait for. It’s a fun action flick with clever comedic writing and practical effects. I wasn’t disappointed and you won’t be either. Go see this movie!

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Fate of the Furious – #review

The eighth film in a franchise about heists, over the top action sequences, cars and family. The roster of talent continues to grow in this series and we, as movie goers, get the benefits of A-list talent appearing in these movies. Does this recent installment in the Fast franchise live up to expectations or does it stall out right after the movie begins? Let’s dive in and take a look at “Fate of the Furious” in this box office review…

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I walked into the movie theater with a single expectation. I wanted an insane, over-the-top, wild and ridiculous on screen adventure. The trailers gave me this expectation. When I saw dozens upon dozens of cars driving themselves out of buildings and 2nd story windows, the Rock skiing on ice while driving a car and throwing a torpedo, I knew this would be pure ridiculousness and I couldn’t wait. I’m happy to report that the film lived up to my expectation. This movie had so many unbelievable action sequences and stunts that I was wearing the dumbest smile from start to finish. This was so unbelievable it was remarkable and I enjoyed every minute.

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The overall story is a mysterious woman (Charlize Theron) manages to get the family first, family man, Dom (Vin Diesel) to turn his back on his family to help her. The writers did a decent enough job asking and answering the questions I had about the overall plot. Why would he turn his back on family? Why is he helping this incredibly beautiful woman who seems hell bent on destroying things? Why does she need Dom’s help? All of these and more were asked and answered by characters in the film. The story had a few surprises as well. Let’s take a moment to give credit where credit is due. The big reveals in this film were well done and well placed. The film didn’t start with big surprises. The twists, if you will, were gradual and placed appropriately in the movie. Overall, job well done on the story.

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The action sequences and stunts were eye candy. The fight scene in the prison was absurd and wonderful all at the same time. The fight scene on the airplane with the baby was unbelievable, adorable and exciting. I personally believe these films need to deliver on the action and cars in order to be successful. This film did not disappoint. Even the two “Nobodies” in the film were campy and fun. The dialogue was comedic at times as well. Overall, this film was just a fun action/heist flick. The complaints or critiques I could have don’t feel appropriate because of where my expectation was walking into the theater.

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Fate of the Furious” is in theaters now! I definitely recommend you see this movie on the big screen if you enjoy action movies. There was a slogan back in the 1990’s on cable television every weekend, “movies for guys who like movies!” The message being conveyed was that you’re about to watch a movie that has minimal plot and lots of action. This slogan was of course implying that men are mostly brain dead neanderthals who can’t appreciate a complex plot but I digress. When I walked out of the theater my first thought was, “This was definitely a movie for guys who like movies but a little bit better.” The story is more developed than I expected. The action was exactly what I wanted. The cars and the tank all look great on the big screen. Definitely worth your hard earned dollars. Go see this film!

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Ghost In the Shell – Review

Computers and Humanity meet in this science fiction action flick. Robots are becoming more human and humans are enhancing themselves with robotics. So much so, that if you are a human without an enhancement people look at you curiously. So what happens when an experiment starts to go wrong and people start dying? Let’s take a look at “Ghost in the Shell” in this review…

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There’s an entire group of people who love the source material this film originates from. I am not one of those people. I don’t dislike the source material either. I am, in fact, completely unaware of the source material. I knew nothing about this film going in except that the main character can jump off buildings while turning invisible and shooting guns. All I knew was because of the trailers. Perhaps that lack of backstory helped elevate my enjoyment of this film. I found the premise of the movie to be well constructed. The delivery of the action I thought was equally enjoyable. The movie from beginning to end looks incredible. That was the one main constant throughout the film. It looks spectacular. The graphics team that worked on this movie did a phenomenal job and the look of everything made this entire film uniquely special.

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The overall tones that make up the visuals are dark. The story takes place in dangerous parts of town with nefarious characters who are always up to no good. However, in contrast to that, the city is vibrant and alive with neon as the future setting is bright and holographic. The main character “Major” played by Scarlett Johansson is in stark contrast to the world she inhabits. She is a bright white incandescent glow in an otherwise dreary looking city. The rest of the characters in this film are draped in blacks, browns and grays. She stands out in every sense. While the world around her is bleak and brooding her design is the complete opposite. She is (both as a character and an idea) meant to stand out in this movie and so she does.

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The story is just as enjoyable as the look of the film. I found the covert operations team, and the manner in which they cooperated together to solve crimes, well designed. The writing develops them enough without each character back story overshadowing the main characters and the plot. We get enough to build out the world we’re inhabiting in this movie but not so much it’s distracting. I honestly do not understand all the negative press this film is getting. I found it to be quite entertaining and enjoyable.

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Ghost In the Shell” is in theaters now! I definitely recommend you see this movie on the big screen if you like science fiction action flicks with plenty of special effects/computer generated images. It looks great in theaters and some of the fight scenes are more entertaining than I expected. I walked out of the theater glad I spent the time experiencing this new world and the characters in it. It looks great and the story is developed enough to be worthwhile. Check it out!

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Power Rangers – Review

“Breakfast Club” meets “Pacific Rim” is not the story I was expecting when I walked into the theater. Movies always share ideas and concepts, sure. However, combining two different genre’s of film such as these to create a movie based off a television show from the 1990’s was surprising. Does it work? Is the combination of ideas believable? Let’s take a look at “Power Rangers” in this review….

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The film does a good job explaining the world this story takes place in. We get plenty of information about the mythos, the individual characters and the threat that is imminent. However, I felt like i was watching two different films that eventually meet in the third act to become one. We have one movie that involves the troubled teenagers becoming the Power Rangers. We have the second story which is everything Elizabeth Banks is in. These two stories don’t feel the same, look the same and the characters almost appear to be directed to act differently. The teenagers are all, for the most part, believable in their characters. Banks, however, is creepy and campy. Her villainy felt displaced in this film. I feel she would’ve been better served as the bad guy in the old TV show. I’m not sure why she was allowed to act so over-the-top in comparison to her counterparts. It was distracting and it legitimately felt like I was watching two different movies at the same time.

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The overall movie I enjoyed. I found it to be a fun action flick with some well placed humor. Plus, we get at least one great character in “Billy” played by RJ Cyler. He’s the heart and soul of the film without question. There’s even scripted dialogue stating that just in case you don’t pick up on it yourself. This is a great appetizer for the summer blockbuster buffet that awaits us. The humor isn’t all in the trailers and neither is the action. There’s a Saturday morning cartoon moment that is strictly for the fans. When it occurs in the third act it feels out of place and it took me out of the film. I did smile though because I knew where it was coming from and that it was strictly fan service. The entire film told me that this was a movie meant for old fans and new fans. Basically, this has something for everyone if you enjoy action movies that deal with superheroes and giant robots that fight monsters.

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Power Rangers” is in theaters now! I recommend people go out and see this on the big screen. It’s not a great film but it’s also not terrible. Again, it is a fun action flick that deals with giant robots fighting monsters that some enjoyable comedic moments.. Who doesn’t love that?? I wouldn’t recommend children under the age of 12 see this because, again, Elizabeth Banks plays a very creepy character that could definitely scare some kids. All in all, fun flick with some good action and humor. Check it out!

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Chips – Review

The transition from television to major motion picture can be tricky to make. We have an expectation from the characters because we have become familiar with them by watching their hijinks every week on tv. So, how does one take a television franchise about the California Highway Patrol and turn it into a major motion picture? Let’s find out in this review of “CHIPS.”

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The story was adjusted from the original television show that ran from 1977-1983. This iteration has an undercover agent of the FBI and a motorcycle stunt man leading the charge. Both characters have their own unique issues they are trying to come to terms with in this film. Writer/Director Dax Shepard said in an interview on the Nerdist Podcast that he was trying to make a film akin to “Lethal Weapon.” While I can see where he was attempting to go, the overall delivery fell short of that movie. The characters felt partly developed and overstated. By that, I mean, they felt more like caricatures instead of believable people in their situation. The dialogue for both the leads indicated that some research had gone into developing these two leads. The manner in which they’d discuss addiction, for example, told me that an honest attempt was made on making a quality film. That all being said, the overall product did not deliver.

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The one concern I have going into theaters to see a comedy is that the funniest parts of the film are in the trailers leading up to the release. I am happy to report that this film still had some laugh out loud moments not in the trailers. However, that alone is not enough to save this film. There’s also some dark moments in this story, again, indicating that this was meant to be better than it turned out to be. When fingers get blown off, my jaw dropped. That was a surprise and a well placed surprise at that. Additionally, Vincent D’Onofrio played the villain but more importantly he used his own voice. The last two characters he played he altered his voice. Thankfully, we get normal sounding Vincent. His performances are generally always entertaining so I don’t want to elaborate more on his performance in this film. I was simply commenting on the fact he used his normal voice and that was a pleasant break from what he has been doing.

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CHIPS” Is in theaters now! Don’t see this movie in theaters. It’s not worth the ticket price or concessions that go along with the price of a ticket. I will say that if you find yourself relaxing on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and it comes on or is rented at Redbox than give it a shot. It’s not a terrible film but it does fail where I believe it was supposed to deliver. All in all, keep your expectations low, pour yourself a drink, whatever that might be, kick your feet up and don’t be surprised if you nap periodically throughout the movie while lounging in the comforts of your own home.

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Life- Review

Science Fiction meets horror is not a new concept. The idea that aliens exist in space and upon meeting humanity decides it’s time for us to die is pretty standard. The creativity in this type of story can be found in the particular methods used by the alien(s) or space explorers. What makes this alien take over attempt different and therefore worth watching? Let’s dive in and see with “Life” in this box office review…

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An international space station crew is preparing to capture a pod that is traveling back from Mars. They catch the pod, as we have seen in the movie previews, and begin studying a single cell life form that seems to be growing at an alarming rate. Things go awry for the crew and it becomes a battle for survival. This is the basic premise or plot of this particular movie.

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Overall, I wasn’t impressed with the film. It starts with a scene that is completely unnecessary to anything in the story and then jumps right into the characters on the space station. I did appreciate how the story wasted no time in getting to the conflict of the movie which is the alien life form. Almost immediately we see that the alien is becoming aware and dangerous and the tension builds from there. Unfortunately, the overall pacing is very unbalanced. At times my heart rate was up and then it grinds to a halt and seems to linger in these slower moments before racing back to tension again. It was stop and go and that was annoying for me, personally.

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The acting in this film was all done well. The talented cast played their specific roles to a believable level and took what was a subpar movie and made it adequate at best. Thankfully we have the cast that we did otherwise this movie would’ve been one big snooze fest. The fear, the happiness, the pride, the sadness are all emotions delivered on screen by each character and it gave me a connection to each one of them before they are killed. Once they’re killed the camera lingers a bit long on a corpse. I speculate this was done to create a sense of loss and heightened tension. Quite the opposite effect for me, it came across as wasted screen time in what was an energized and engaging scene.

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Life” is in theaters now! I don’t recommend you see this on the big screen. There’s nothing spectacular about this film that warrants your hard earn dollars being spent on ticket prices and concession. It’s a mediocre movie at best and the ending was edited so oddly that it confused me instead of surprised me. I believe the ending was designed to surprise us, and maybe for some it did, but I was confused. When I replayed the scenes in my mind I didn’t get how that ending transpired. It’s worth $1 at Redbox once it’s available and even then you have to enjoy science fiction meets horror films to care.

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