I'll See You at the Movies

The Crappy Past

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

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I know independent fans of Batman and Superman are eager to find out how “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” will turn out, especially since the film is made by director Zack Snyder of “Man of Steel.” But like the prejudging, I found it to be a total disaster-the kind of film that Michael Bay would make. It has action and fights, things fans would enjoy, but the problem is they happen way, way too much, forcing me to lose sight in what’s important in the story. In fact, there is no story to tell.

I did my best to jot down the set-up. The movie takes place after the battle between Superman (Henry Cavill) and General Zod (Michael Shannon, presented here as a carcass) in “Man of Steel,” when most of the world has considered the Man of Steel to be a threat to society. Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) is mortified by this, especially since the battle attacked one of his companies, and badly disabled one of his employees (Scoot McNairy).

Jesse Eisenberg, an otherwise fine actor, is completely annoying as Lex Luther, who manages to get his hands on Kryptonite, Superman’s greatest weakness, and uses General Zod’s carcass to help create a monster called Doomsday (Robin Atkin Downes). This Luther is looney in his dialogue, body language, and characteristics, as if almost the actor is translating him for an SNL skit. When Luther’s goons kidnap Superman’s foster mother Martha Kent (Diane Lane), and orders him to kill Batman, that’s when the fight begins. And so, punch, crash, bang, and crash; and all this goes on so long, I simply started to yawn.

Gal Gadot is cast here as Diana Prince, who reveals herself as Wonder Woman during the third act, but she basically becomes a teaser for the upcoming 2017 movie, especially when she looks up surveillance videos of Aquaman (Jason Momoa), the Flash (Ezra Miller), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher). I was so bored by the movie’s pointless and cantankerous narrative, that I couldn’t study her character. Gadot can do a fine job in the upcoming 2017 movie, but here, there is no payoff in her story.

​”Batman v Superman: Dawn of justice has great images, but I have failed to find any meaning in them. I don’t want to just look at a movie, I want to deal with the story and the characters it crafts, and these characters are anything, but unique. Affleck lacks the depth of Christian Bale in Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy, even if Nolan is lined up as an executive producer; Cavill is sometimes presented here as angry and violent, and he was fine in the first movie; Eisenberg, again, degrades himself as Luther; Amy Adams is here and there as Lois Lane; and Jeremy Irons looks more like a MIT roommate than Bruce Wayne’s butler Alfred Pennyworth. We have fine actors in would-be beautiful roles.

I’m sorry to disappoint fans, young and old, but I only viewed this movie as a Michael Bay action movie. Zack Synder has made better movies like “300,” “Watchmen,” and “Man of Steel,” but he cares more about fights and special effects than about the characters and narrative.

☠ Poison for the Mind (0/4)

Suicide Squad

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DC Comics is not doing so hot at the movies this year. “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” not only had a big drop in its second weekend at the box office, but critically speaking, it also was a long, violent, and embarrassing piece of crap. And now we have “Suicide Squad,” which has elements that reminds you of Marvel movies like “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” “Deadpool,” and “X-Men: Apocalypse, but it ends up having no point in its storytelling. I’m thankful it’s not as painfully bad as “BvS,” even if the film is co-produced by Zach Synder, but I still can’t recommend it.

Following Superman’s death in “BvS,” intelligence operative Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) manages to persuade the Pentagon to allow her to set up a team of some of the world’s most deadly criminals. They include Deadshot (Will Smith), a skilled assassin defeated by Batman (Ben Affleck); Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), a psychiatrist transformed into a wakko by the Joker (Jared Leto); Boomerang (Jai Courtney), an Australian thief with boomerangs as weapons; Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), a human crocodile; and El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), who has the power to shoot fire, but wants to redeem himself after accidentally burning his family to death.

Joel Kinnaman plays Colonel Rick Flagg, who leads the Suicide Squad, and has them inject with an explosive device. If they leave, they die; if they screw up, they die; if they piss him off, they die; and if he dies, they die. He is also in love with June Moone (Cara Delevingne), an archaeologist, who has been cursed into a witch, every time she says: “Enchantress.” They want her curse to be over, especially when the Enchantress plans to destroy humanity.

“Suicide Squad” is only likable when Smith, Kinnaman, and Hernandez appear on screen, together or separate. To me, I enjoyed their characters, as well as their personal touch, and constant bickering. I hate to sound like a sexist, but Robbie’s Harley Quinn is only good for her hair style. You only feel sympathy for her character towards the end, but the rest just doesn’t cut it. Akinnuoye-Agbaje looks and sounds cool as Killer Croc, but he isn’t up there with Groot or Drax from “Guardians of the Galaxy. And Courtney’s Boomerang is only good for his costume and make-up, and nothing else.

It also has an eclectic taste in music. I enjoyed the songs from Rick James’ “Super Freak” to Skrillex and Rick Ross’ “Purple Lamborghini” to Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” to Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky.” All the songs match the style and charisma of the scenes, and I’ve enjoyed listening and watching them, but it’s not enough to save the movie.

The villains, particularly the Joker and the Enchantress, have no point in their narrative. Leto was breathtaking in “Requiem for a Dream” and “Dallas Buyers Club,” but here, he looks like a pimp with all the grillz in his teeth, and his story only makes sense in regard to his affection for Harley Quinn. And the Enchantress is all special effects, and less character. As I was watching her, I barely got her story. To make a fresh superhero or super villain movie (however you’d like to call it), you need to give the villains a clear insight.

“Suicide Squad,” written and directed by David Ayer, is marginally better than “BvS,” but in spite of a hot soundtrack and fresh performances from Smith, Kinnaman, and Hernandez, the movie only has the power to pass me out.

⭐️⭐️

Independence Day

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The original “Independence Day” is a Sci-Fi thriller that is also considered a guilty pleasure by half the movie-goers. It was a box office smash in 1996 (grossing over $800 million worldwide), but has been given a polarized response from critics, and I am one of those who is barely impressed with this film.

Giant alien ships have hovered over New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, and destroyed them with one fell swoop. Thus we are given dazzling special effects, but goofy moments like dogs and airplanes dodging the explosions. The Air Force goes into battle with the ships, but they are protected by force fields, and a number of battle ships. And there’s a reason they call the movie “Independence Day.” Because it takes place on Independence Day.

Among the star-studded cast, Will Smith is here and there as Captain Steve Hiller, a soldier sent to battle the aliens. Bill Pullman is decent as President James Whitmore, who reads one of the aliens’ thoughts, and learns about their plan for mass extinction. Randy Quaid plays a drunken pilot who claims he was abducted by aliens 10 years ago. And Brent Spiner plays a scientist, who studies an alien carcass, which turns out to be alive.

But the best star in my opinion is Jeff Goldblum as David Levison, a brainiac, who may have a solution to battling the aliens, thanks to his father (Judd Hirsch) of course. His likability ranks with “Jurassic Park,” and with that degree, he is the star of the show.

“Independence Day,” directed by Roland Emmerich, may have some impressive special effects and a nice performance from Jeff Goldblum, but a lot of it is both boring and generic. This is one of those movies that may be popular, but don’t allow me to go with the flow. Sorry guys.

Oh, and one more thing: I blame this movie for making some people think people are thinking of “Independence Day,” when they are saying “independent films.”

⭐️⭐️1/2

Independence Day: Resurgence

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“Independence Day,” one of the biggest hits of 1996, has waited 20 years to conjure up another alien battle in “Resurgence.” If anyone asks, only Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Judd Hirsch, Vivica A. Fox, Brent Spiner, and the late Robert Loggia are the only remaining actors in the film. If anyone also asks, I was less than impressed with the original, although Goldblum stole the show as the brainiac David Levison. And finally, if anyone asks, “Independence Day: Resurgence” has the IQ of a preschooler. Meaning it’s one of the worst pieces of crap I have ever seen.

In 2016 (this is 2016!!!), we now have flying ships and improved technology, ever since the aliens declared war on Earth. Then an even bigger ship (about 3000 miles) comes to Earth and sucks up a few cities and drops them on other cities (“What goes up must come down,” says David). And even worse, the queen alien decides to drill a hole in the Earth’s core, so she can take away our magnetic field, ending the world as we know it. But, obviously, humanity fights back.

If “Jupiter Ascending” and “Terminator Genisys” had a baby, “Independence Day: Resurgence” would be one Hell of a deformed child. It’s one of the most dreariest, darkest, lifeless, and idiotic experiences I have ever had the displeasure of reviewing. Even aimed once more by director Roland Emmerich, this one stinks.

Like “The Expendables III,” the youngsters are both insipid and uninteresting. Liam Hemsworth is the young pilot Jake, Preisdent Whitmore’s (Pullman) future son-in-law; Maika Monroe is Whitmore’s daughter Patricia; Jesse T. Usher is Will Smith’s stepson Dylan Hiller; Travis Tope is Jake’s good friend; and Angelababy is the Commander’s (Chin Han) niece. All of them have to go into battle, and none of them are interesting.

Throughout I was saying: “Are you **^~^# kidding me?!,” because this movie would be perfect for preschoolers. When Jake punches an alien in a pathetic way, he says “Ow.” When the ships from both sides go into battle, you fall asleep. And when Goldblum says he peed himself, you know you’re dead. I thought “Batman v Superman” from last March was a epic disaster, and it was, but “Independence Day: Resurgence” has gone to Jupiter to get more stupider.

☠ Poison for the Mind (0/4)

Sex Tape

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You see, they call it “Sex Tape” for a reason (in fact, while filming, they called it “Basic Math”). They call it “Sex Tape,” because it involves Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel constantly going all the way, until they lose their buzz, and have to regain it again. There are so many montages about sex that I felt a little squeamish. It’s one thing for a virgin to try something new (“The 40-Year-Old-Virgin”), but it is quite another to overdo it.

Diaz and Segel, reuniting with director Jake Kasden from “Bad Teacher,” play college sweethearts, Annie and Jay, who have been professionals at “doing it,” and they promise never to give up. That is until, they have two kids (Sebastian Hedges Thomas and Giselle Eisenberg), and things start to become dreary (I felt so in my seat).

But then, Annie decides that she and Jay should make a sex tape, which goes up to the Cloud. The thing is that Jay buys iPads for work, and whenever he finishes them, he gives them to people, including their friends (Rob Corddry and Ellie Kemper) and even Annie’s future business partner (Rob Lowe). So, they end up on a desperate mission to find and erase the video.

I have found a few laughs (thanks to Lowe and guest star Jack Black) in “Sex Tape,” but honestly, I recommend skipping this movie. Diaz, as talented as she is, mostly whines and gripes to Segel; so like “The Other Woman,” I have found yet another unhappy Diaz comedy.

I need to get back about the wall-to-wall sex scenes. I know of an Indie comedy/drama, which focuses on sex addicts cleaning themselves up. It is called “Thanks for Sharing,” and it is now available on Blu-Ray. I prefer you watch that, instead of “Sex Tape.” The more sex scenes I see in this film, the more queasy I start to feel.

⭐️

Blended

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Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, back together on the screen for the third time (“The Wedding Singer” and “50 First Dates”) in “Blended,” are basically single parents in a two-way-cross between classic sitcoms like “The Brady Bunch” and “Step By Step.” The only differences are that Sandler has three girls and Barrymore has two boys; and also this movie is mostly just plain mean.

“Blended” features Sandler and Barrymore meeting on a blind date that goes comically awry. Sandler’s wife died of cancer, while Barrymore is divorced with Joel McHale, who is a selfish jerk. My problem with Sandler and Barrymore’s connection in this film is that they argue non-stop, unlike “The Wedding Singer” and “50 First Dates.” However, they both end up on a family vacation in Africa, when Barrymore’s obnoxious friend (Wendi McLendon-Covey in a worse role than “The Single Moms Club”) breaks up with her boyfriend (Dan Patrick), and cancels their trip. What was considered to be separate trips places these two families together, and this is where things get annoying.

“Blended” is like being bullied for two hours. Most of the characters are mean and obnoxious. So, this maybe the meanest Sandler comedy I have ever seen. The laughs are hit and miss, and I did chuckle from time-to-time, but most of them are brainless. I am fan of Sandler’s work, and I do believe he loves the craziness that he was always brought on camera, but he doesn’t need to overdo it.

⭐️

Jupiter Ascending

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It has been six years since I’ve been to Universal Studios, Florida, but I can tell you this: their rides meant more to me than anything going on in “Jupiter Ascending.” I probably should have mentioned Six Flags, because the movie is released by Warner Bros, but either way, it feels like a roller coaster ride without any restraints.

Directed by the Wachowskis, this would-be space opera wants to be “Star Wars,” “Star Trek,” “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Gravity,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and “Interstellar.” Despite some nice visuals, this movie fails to out-space them all. In fact, every space sequence, I was not running out of oxygen, I was running out of patience.

The movie stars Mila Kunis as Jupiter, a young Chicago housekeeper, who starts her day with an “I hate my life” quote, and wants to buy a telescope, inspired by her late father (James D’Arcy). She is then rescued from an alien race by would-be sky jacker Caine Wise (Channing Tatum), who obviously serves as her love interest (another failure: this movie secretly wants to be either “Avatar,” “Twilight,” or “Titanic”). She also finds out that she is of royal descent, and two brother villains are after her: Balem (Eddie Redmayne, lazy with a sore throat accent), who wants to harvest the Earth, and Titus (Douglas Booth), who plans to kill her after they wed.

“Jupiter Ascending” may not be as ugly as “Battlefield Earth,” but it is pretty pathetic. Everything about it is bad: the dialogue (“I have more in common with a dog than I have with you,” says Caine), the story, and the acting. Kunis and Tatum have distasteful chemistry in this movie. They could work together again in the future, but not this time. Redmayne gave his best performance as Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything.” It is a shame that his next movie features his worst performance. And other talents, like Booth, Sean Bean and Gugu McBatha-Raw, fail to impress me. All of these stars are wonderful in general, but here, they are embarrassing themselves.

⭐️

Dirty Grandpa

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The sense of humor in “Dirty Grandpa” begins with Robert De Niro looking sad about losing his wife of 40 years, and then the next morning, you find him masturbating to porn. I know I shouldn’t be saying this, but I consider “That’s My Boy” to be a guilty pleasure, whereas “Dirty Grandpa” cares about love stains, shots, weed trucks, jerky cops, little boys playing with penis socks disguised as bees, and butt poking. And to watch Zac Efron suffer through it all is beyond distressful. These are two of our finest actors, and yet, they’ve done nothing funny or heartwarming.

De Niro plays Dick Kelly, who tricks his grandson Jason (Efron)-an engaged lawyer in his father’s (Dermot Mulroney) firm-into driving him to his recently departed wife’s favorite spot in Boca Raton, Florida, when really he wants to go to Daytona Beach to make love to a college girl named Lenore (Aubrey Plaza). Jason is getting married to Meredith (Julianne Hough), who constantly calls him on his trip, making him lie, despite finding a penis-shaped swastika drawn on his forehead.

Jason has to deal with his sexually active grandfather, and their chemistry is just as sloppy as Melissa McCarthy and Susan Sarandon’s failed grandmother-granddaughter set-up in “Tammy.” Dick Kelly sleeps in the nude and tricks Jason into seeing his Johnson, he insults him for being a cockblock, and yet, he tells Jason Meredith is not the girl for him. Better yet is Shadia (Zoey Deutch), Lenore’s hippie friend, who doesn’t yet know about his engagement. We know how their independent love stories work out, but I see no characters in any of the girls.

“Dirty Grandpa” has a more repulsive sense of humor than the Ed Helms “Vacation” with the raw sewage swimming, or “Sex Tape” with the multiple off-screen enjaculations. I apologize for those who are left uncomfortable or hurt by these words, but I have to put my foot down to let you know how I feel about this movie. Maybe I did smirk a few times, but I regret them once the movie made it clear how fowl it is.

Zac Efron has proven himself to be a fine young actor, and I recommend you see him in “Neighbors” or “The Paperboy,” instead of this. And Robert De Niro is, no doubt, a powerful actor, who has a better movie out now called “Joy.” It’s no “Godfather 2” or “Raging Bull,” but it’s cleaner than this piece of crap.

☠ Poison for the Mind (0/4)

Daddy’s Home

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Being that this is Christmas, I have to say: “Daddy’s Home” is probably the only lump of coal in my stocking. It’s irritatingly bad, painfully unfunny, and too bright and atrocious to gaze at. I know the stars Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg were both brilliant together in “The Other Guys,” and I met those two because of that movie; but in “Daddy’s Home,” they present themselves in scenes I don’t even like to see again.

Problem #1: The movie thinks it’s children’s entertainment, because of how its trailers were shown in front of “Pan,” “The Peanuts Movie,” and “The Good Dinosaur.” The film is rated PG-13, and other than a few “Frozen” references, I can’t really see how this is made for kids. Ferrell’s character Brad has become sterile, because of a picture dental X-ray machine falling on his you know what. Hannibal Buress (“Neighbors”) accuses his character of being a racist. And Ferrell and Wahlberg’s character Dusty tell the kids (Scarlett Estevez and Owen Vaccro) a King and Step-King bedtime story, ambiguously saying how sexy and long their swords are. This is not at all a kid’s movie.

Problem #2: The story tries to be “Step By Step,” and ends up in a tired competition. Brad wants to be the perfect father to his step-kids, and their real father Dusty comes to town. Dusty finds them a homeless, fierce dog named Tumor; builds them a cool treehouse; and offers them $20 at bedtime. And Brad constantly tries to overshadow him, by giving them Christmas in April, and tickets to an NBA game. He drinks his sorrows away, after Dusty hooks his family up with Kobe Bryant, and then tries to shoot a hoop, which ends up hitting both a cheerleader and a handicapped child.

And Problem #3: Linda Cardellini as Dusty’s ex-wife and Brad’s new wife. She is a good actress, and I liked her in “Good Burger,” “Grandma’s Boy,” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” but in “Daddy’s Home,” she has gotten on my nerves. She has her reasons for hating Dusty, but she ends up being a tired mother, who wants Brad to be her baby daddy. She even has to suffer through all the torment Brad engages in.

Other than one funny pony joke, “Daddy’s Home” left me with a cold heart. Everything about the movie is wrong: the premise, the characters, the jokes, and even the confusion on the main general audience (kids or adults?). The movie was directed by Sean Anders, who has made some good movies like “Sex Drive,” “That’s My Boy,” and a screenplay for “We’re the Millers.” Lately, he has lost his way starting with last year’s “Horrible Bosses 2,” and now, “Daddy’s Home.” This one has just been added to my list of the worst films of the year.

Half a Smiley Face

The Boss

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“The Boss” is crafted by the same otherwise big talents, who disoriented me with the wasted comedy “Tammy” from 2014. They consist of stars Melissa McCarthy (also a writer and producer) and Kathy Bates; producers Will Ferrell and Adam McKay; and director Ben Falcone (McCarthy’s husband, also a writer, producer, and co-star). Until its release date, I have been pondering on whether or not it will be as disastrous as “Tammy,” and when I saw it, I found it to be much worse.

McCarthy stars as Michelle Darnell, “the 47th wealthiest woman in America,” whose ex-lover-now-turned-rival (Peter Dinklage) rats her out to the SCC for her white-collar crimes. When released from prison, she ends up living with her single mother assistant Claire (Kristen Bell) and her daughter Rachel (Ella Anderson). While Claire works for a mean boss (Cecily Strong), Michelle takes Rachel to her Girl Scouts meeting, and discovers that a brownie empire is her true calling. So, she gets Claire to make the brownies, and a group of tough girls to help her battle a Girl Scout opponent (Annie Mumolo). No, really. There is a fight in a neighborhood, thus allowing the girls to pull hairs and clothesline their enemies.

I sat in a theater with laughs, and I know they eat up this kind of material, but I didn’t laugh once. McCarthy has been so better in so many funny movies, but her material here is mean-spirited, sloppy, and degrading. Bell, as wonderful of an actress as she is (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” “Frozen,” etc.) will not stop saying: “language”; Dinklage plays a worse villain than his in “Underdog”; and Mumolo, who wrote the brilliant “Bridesmaids,” plays a cruel, tasteless character. These are big talents in wasted roles.

Again, coming on the heels of “Tammy,” Falcone is a better actor than he is a filmmaker, and you should see him in “Bridesmaids” and “Enough Said.” I have absolutely nothing against Falcone and McCarthy (in fact, they were nice enough to take selfies with me and all their adoring fans at an AOL Build program), but they’re better off being told what to do, instead of them telling people what to do.

☠ Poison for the Mind (0/4)

Tammy

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Melissa McCarthy, the writer/producer/star of “Tammy,” is among the greatest female comics of all time. She was brilliant in “Bridesmaids,” “This is 40,” “The Heat,” and her SNL hosting last February. Her husband Ben Falcone, the director/writer/producer/star of “Tammy,” has had pretty interesting roles in “Bridesmaids,” “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” and “Enough Said.” That was just a disclaimer, because their film “Tammy” is among the year’s worst and most ambitious messes.

McCarthy is just awful and whiny as Tammy, who gets fired from her job at a fiction burger joint called “Topper Jack’s,” finds out her husband (Nat Faxon, a fine filmmaker and actor who did “The Way, Way Back”) is cheating on her with another woman (Toni Collette in a completely dull role), and her car is now totaled, following a dear crash (there was only one funny moment in that scene, but it ends completely lame).

Just as her mother (Allison Janney) criticizes her for whining, planning to runaway, and then coming back home, her diabetic and alcoholic grandmother (Susan Sarandon) asks Tammy to drive her out of town from Missouri to Niagara Falls. In other words, this movie is basically “Tammy & Louise,” but a poor spoof, as Tammy and Granny argue and criticize each other non-stop.

“Tammy” is also produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, and its star-studded cast also includes Dan Aykroyd, Gary Cole, Mark Duplass, Sandra Oh, and Kathy Bates. All these people, including McCarthy, Sarandon, Faxon, Janney, Collette, and Falcone, are part of a bad comedy that made me feel sad just watching it. The movie is whiny, half the stars are drunk, half of them are mean, but Duplass is the nicest guy in the movie as Tammy’s love interest. “Thelma & Louise” was a great road-trip movie, but here, it is like living with a bratty teenager. I sat with an audience of hyenas, young and old, and how can they feel good watching this movie? I believe in miracles, and I know all these stars can do better next time, but once in a while, they have to screw up.

Half a Smiley Face

Tusk

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As much as I admire writer/director Kevin Smith, I found his latest project, “Tusk,” to be a thoroughly disturbing experience. How can I put this? You know that there are sex-reassignment operations? Well, apparently, there are species-reassignment operations. You’re probably confused. I know, but when you find out the story, you”ll know for sure.

Justin Long stars as an obnoxious LA podcaster named Wallace Bryton, who visits an old man (“Kill Bill’s” Michael Parks in a crazed performance) in Canada, who has stories to tell about his adventures out at sea. How he met Ernest Hemingway and how a walrus, whom he referred to as Mr. Tusk, saved his life. He then paralyzes Wallace, because, with a suit and the right tools, he wants to turn him into a walrus. This is where things really get disturbing.

The scenes that don’t scare me involve his friends (Haley Joel Osment and Gensis Rodriguez) struggling to find Wallace, after dealing with his personal life. They talk to a French detective (Johnny Depp, nicknamed Guy Lapointe), who was on the search for a missing hockey player. But could that player be the same victim as Wallace? Obviously.

I am no podcast guy, as far as I am concerned, but the movie should have been all about podcasting, instead of the species-reassignment operation. I am going to have to assume that Kevin Smith saw “The Skin I Live In,” with Antonio Banderas turning a young man into a woman, and he wanted to alter it to make it possible that anyone can literally become an animal. Long may be covered in a rubber suit, but the very idea looks disturbing in any way. I found two laughs in the film, but the movie is more scary than it is funny.

⭐️

Hot Pursuit

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“Hot Pursuit” is a police comedy so bad, it makes me either want to squirm in my seat or look at my iPhone. In my defense, “Let’s Be Cops” was a much better police comedy than this movie will be, and the cops in that film weren’t even cops.

The movie stars Reese Witherspoon as a Dallas cop, who is committed to her job as the law, after all the times she has spent with her late police father. She is given the task to escort the wife (Sofia Vergara) of a drug dealer to testify against a drug cartel (Joaquin Cosio). After a shoot-out brought upon by drug dealers (Benny Nieves and Michael Ray Escamilla) and dirty cops (Matthew Del Negro and Michael Mosley), the cop and the wife are now sullied as fugitives from the law.

The most annoying thing about the Witherspoon and Vergara characters are they argue, whine, babble, fight over a gun, and criticize each other none stop. So much so, that I just didn’t care anymore. And as the film’s running gag, the news reports Witherspoon as a shortie (4’11), and Vergara as a middle-aged woman. Witherspoon and Vergara are both big talents, and I give them credit for what they do in general, but here, they have gotten on my nerves.

“Hot Pursuit” is also aimed as a chick flick with no brains, no chemistry, and no potential, whatsoever. I have nothing against chick flicks, just as long as they don’t degrade themselves, but this movie is degrading on so many wrong cliches. You want to see chick flicks about the law, rent “The Heat” or “Thelma and Louise.” “Hot Pursuit” is one of the absolute worst comedies ever.

☠ Poison for the Mind (0/4)

Love the Coopers

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Diane Keaton stars as a middle-aged mother, who wants to have one perfect Christmas with her family, but if you ask me: “Love the Coopers” is one of the most imperfect comedies to have ever hit the big screen. Did I say “imperfect?” I meant drunk, sad, cheap, ugly, mean, boring, and stupid, so much so that I began writing this review on my iPhone, and five people were in the theater. So I didn’t bother them.

Steve Martin, as brilliant of a comic as he is, is horrible as the film’s narrator, who tells Keaton’s story, as well as the rest of her clan. John Goodman plays her husband, who is as blank as paper, and feels like he is growing apart from her. Ed Helms is mean and depressed as their cash-stricken son, whose three kids are just as insipid and bland as he is. And Olivia Wilde plays their daughter, who asks an army recruit (Jack Lacy) to pretend to be her fiancée.

Among the other members of her family, Marisa Tomei plays Keaton’s “accident” sister, who tries to steal a brooch (by pretending to cough them in), and examines her arresting officer’s (a barely recognizable Anthony Mackie) personality. June Squibb plays Goodman’s aunt, who thinks eating a gingerbread house at a grocery store is hilarious. And Alan Arkin is pathetic as Keaton and Tomei’s father, who has a crush on a young diner waitress (Amanda Seyfried).

“Love the Coopers” is filled with so many mean, dumb, and boring characters, it’s no surprise Lionsgate and CBS Films gave it a green light. Dogs passing gas at the dinner table, a mother vomiting on her little girl’s gift, and Helms yelling at everyone. You call this funny? I call it crap.

It’s also ugly because of the way the movie is shot. The camera just zooms in and out, and the lighting is too yellow. And there are bad special effects, too. For example, a little boy dreams of punching a bully, making him fly and crashing into fake reindeer. And whenever some people are devastated, they freeze up and explode. Does every comedy need to take action?

Keaton, Goodman, Helms, Wilde, Squibb, Lacy, Arkin, Tomei, Mackie, Seyfried, and Martin are no doubt big talents, and they have done better before, but watching them in wasted performances gives me a big headache. Even worse, I have to hear the very few people in the audience laughing.

☠ Poison for the Mind (0/4)

Annabelle

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“Before “The Conjuring,” There Was Annabelle.” Annabelle is the doll you saw among the possessed items in the Warren’s residence in last year’s horror hit “The Conjuring.” This spin-off focuses on the doll, although its running time length (an hour and a half) couldn’t make things a little too obvious.

The movie stars Annabelle Wallis and Ward Horton (“The Wolf of Wall Street”) as a couple, Mia and John, expecting their first-born child. John buys her a giant doll named Annabelle, which was previously owned by Annabelle Higgins (Tree O’Toole), who joined a cult, and cuts her own throat, allowing her blood to get consumed by the doll. In other words, the doll is cursed.

Even if Mia and John move into another building, they still have to figure out what the doll wants. So they turn to the local priest (Tony Amendola) and a bookshop owner (Alfre Woodward) for help.

“Annabelle” is both great and thrilling to look at. Like “The Conjuring,” the movie takes place in the early 70s, so we have the television sets, the stoves, the cars, and the record players. Wallis, Horton, Amendola, and Woodard all do a fine job playing their characters, and they never overdo the roles.

The movie does move a little too fast, and a lot of things are pretty obvious. My question is if the doll is cursed, why doesn’t it move? The answer: Satan literally takes care of that. I liked the film more than the recently nightmare “Tusk,” but I wish it could have been better.

⭐️⭐️1/2

Passengers

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Even if I loved “Interstellar,” I didn’t care for “Passengers” that much. Sure, it has a smart idea about people traveling to a better Earth in hibernation pods, with only two waking up prematurely, but a lot of the movie seems lonely to me.

To me, this hasn’t been a good year for Chris Pratt. Both “The Magnificent Seven” and “Passengers” don’t allow this wonderful actor to have the kind of spark he possesses in “The Lego Movie,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and “Jurassic World.” He plays a mechanic named Jim Preston, whose hibernation pod somehow goes AWOL, and wakes him up 90 years to his destination. Not even the computers can help him (It’s a shame Steve Jobs isn’t alive to help), so he ends up being alone with only the android bartender Arthur (Michael Sheen)-the film’s robotic Lloyd (“The Shining”)-as his companion.

Here’s what goes wrong with his story. Jim finds a new love-a writer named Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence)-and instead of the computers waking her up, it’s Jim who tampers with her pod. The rest ends up as mushy and pathetic as “Jupiter Ascending” with their dates, dialogue, and Aurora shutting him out because of what he did. I prefer it if the computers affected her.

There are some nice qualities about the ship in “Passengers.” There are basketball courts, virtual dance games, tiny robots who serves as vaccum cleaners, and attractive space suits. I mean that in a design way, not a sexual way. The rest barely has anywhere to go. It casts such fine talents as Pratt and Lawrence, but why are they really here? Are they here to play characters or just because their names will sell tickets? At the moment, I’m not really sure.

“Independence Day: Resurgence” and “Jupiter Ascending” are worse space movies than “Passengers,” but this one has nothing on either “Interstellar” or the recent “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” In fact, I doubt it will beat “Rogue One” at the box office.

⭐️⭐️

Fight Club

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With “Dallas Buyers Club” now playing in select theaters and expanding soon, I have come to realize that I have never seen a movie starring Jared Leto. So, to solve my problem, I decided to review two of his films, “Fight Club” and “Requiem for a Dream.” Even though he is not the main protagonist in it, I still am reviewing “Fight Club,” directed by David Fincher. The bottom line is the movie is attractive, but inside, it is mean spirited.
Edward Norton’s character suffers insomnia, and is given no help, other than the suggestion to go to a support group with men who suffered from testicular cancer. There, he meets the washed out body builder (Meat Loaf), who lost everything, and deals with a female tourist named Marla (Helena Bonham Carter), who lies about having a disease. Norton and Marla agree to attend different meetings without being in the same room.

On a plane, he meets a soap salesman named Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) with both soap bars made from human fat and the famous quote “I Want You To Hit Me As Hard As You Can.” They fight for fun, and it becomes a show. Therefore, they host a secret organization called “Fight Club.” Eventually, Norton learns that it’s more than a fight.

“Fight Club” has nice qualities, but it is not a great movie. Norton, Pitt, and Carter have a certain chemistry that makes them seem like they come from a dark world. The art direction is nice, and it gives the scenes a certain kind of depth. The score the Dust Brothers compose makes the movie look like a video game, and I prefer their music over the Skrillex music in “Spring Breakers.” I read something that at the 56th Venice International Film Festival that half the critics liked it, and half the critics hated it.

I am mixed about the film, because it is kind of mean-spirited and bloody. By mean-spirited, I mean there is a scene when “Fight Club” members become jerks to other people without any reason, and by bloody, I mean, the fights cover men black, blue, and red all over.

I was hooked with the actors’ performances in “Fight Club” so much, that I was considering to give it three smiley faces. But, the reason I give it a two and a half smiley face rating is because of the anger and blood the characters give.

⭐️⭐️1/2

Trolls

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We have a number of problems in this world. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the presidential candidates, people dressed up as clowns are scaring people, there may be higher gas prices after a major explosion, and some of the people I care about enjoyed the horrendously awful “Dirty Grandpa.” If Princess Poppy the troll lived in our world, she’d still look on the bright side of life. In fact, she and her friends do three things: hug, dance, and sing. But as highly positive as that character is, I was highly negative about the movie “Trolls.”

This is the latest animated feature from Dreamworks Animation, which, like last year’s “Home,” uses a hot soundtrack (featuring Justin Timberlake’s smash hit “Can’t Stop the Feeling”) to help sell tickets. But the problems with both these movies are the animation which mostly looks generic, the supporting characters who come and go, the jokes which aren’t funny, and the timing which goes off track. Ergo, I was disappointed in this movie.

Poppy’s voice is spoken and sung by Anna Kendrick, who uses her “Pitch Perfect” talents to bring the character to life. She’s next in the line for the throne, and throws a huge party, attracting the attention of a chef (voiced by Christine Baranski), who is a Bergen-monsters who think happiness come from eating trolls. Then, she enlists the help of the only unhappy troll Branch (voiced by Timberlake), who knew the Bergens would come one day, to rescue her fellow trolls.

In the damp and dreary Bergentown, there’s the young, dorky King Gristle, Jr (voiced by Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who is told by his late father (voiced by John Cleese) that because he never had his first troll to eat, he’ll never find happiness. And then there’s the scullery maid Bridget (voiced by Zooey Deschanel), who has a crush on Gristle, and receives help from her new troll friends to win his heart.

I forgot to mention “Trolls” is based on those popular children’s toys with the long colorful hair. They can do wonders with their hair, including making stairs and fighting giant fuzzy spiders. I’ve never played with them, and I never wondered what the point is. The movie tries to explain it, but only small kids can eat this stuff up. There are some songs I liked, and others which are both unnecessary and unmemorable. Deschanel’s voice is only recognizable when she sings her own cover of Lionel Richie’s “Hello,” while the rest seems like a dorky teen with a higher voice. And most of the animation is generic, while some of it is passable. This is one of Dreamworks Animation’s weakest films.

There are some nice qualities, including the voice acting. The best come from Kendrick, Timberlake, Baranski, Mintz-Plasse, Cleese, Russell Brand, and James Corden. And the best moments include a talking and walking cloud (voiced by co-director Walt Dohrn), and Poppy’s bedtime song “Sound of Silence.” I liked its fuzzy environment, and colorful hair, but the movie lacks the pure magic I was looking forward to.

⭐️⭐️

Out of the Furnace

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Christian Bale has two movies out this December: “Out of the Furnace” and “American Hustle.” I just hope “American Hustle” will be better than this film, because half the movie is over by the time the centerpiece starts. The lighting is mostly literally dark, the premise becomes a little too obvious and lazy, and I was reminded of two bad movies: “The Counselor,” which I gave two and a half smiley faces, and “Homefront,” which I gave one smiley face.
The movie starts off pretty interesting, as Bale plays Russell Blaze, who ends up in prison for a DWI night that kills a mother and her child. Released from prison, he learns a few sad truths: his father (Bingo O’Malley) has passed on, his brother Rodney, Jr. (Casey Affleck) fights for a living, and his girlfriend (Zoe Saldana) has started a new relationship with a cop (Forest Whitaker).

Even though he takes beatings in the fights, Rodney asks his loan shark John Petty (Willem Dafoe) to hook him up with a fight, sponsored by the bloodthirsty Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson). Petty tells DeGroat that their deal is even, but DeGroat thinks otherwise and kills Petty and Rodney (this is where the story ends). Russell tries to find Rodney, but he finds out he is dead, so he tries to set things right. I might be giving away the plot, but what else is this guy going to do?

Scott Cooper did a better job directing “Crazy Heart” than he did with “Out of the Furnace.” I was reminded of “The Counselor,” because of how lazy it was not to add a story where Russell has to find Rodney, and ends up in a battle with DeGroat. I was also reminded of “Homefront,” because Harrelson plays pretty much a drunk and abusive character, and if he kept this behavior up, he would have been as bad as Kate Bosworth was in that movie.

Don’t get me wrong. I liked Bale, Affleck, Saldana, Whitaker, Dafoe, and Sam Shepard (as the uncle of Russell and Rodney), as well as the setting and look of this movie. In fact, I consider this movie guys would see before or after they go bar hopping. Still, I was mostly bored with this movie.

⭐️⭐️

Under the Skin

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With Scarlett Johansson’s other movie, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” being a box office hit, I had to see her other recent film, “Under the Skin,” in the Big Apple. I have to tell you: Martin McNee and Emer O’Sullivan’s art direction are both fantastic and threatening and Meca Levi’s score sends a chill through your heart.

Unfortunately, this film is one of the most miserable experiences I have ever had at the movies. It is not the worst movie of the year, but it might end up somewhere on my list.

Here’s why it’s horrible. Set in Scotland, an alien, with Scarlett Johansson’s body, seduces hitchhikers to their demise. But what else?!! Most of the hitchhikers’ dialogue are half hard and half easy to understand. Where are the subtitles?! And the images may be beautiful, but like “Enemy,” they are mostly too dark for me to see what is happening.

And the last half of the film bored me to death. What is the point of all this?! I ask you!

“Under the Skin” marks the first time I have ever heard of director Jonathan Glazer. He made a bad movie, but maybe next time, he can appease me. Johansson is a big talent, I assure you, but in this film, she has nothing important to say. I basically had the same reaction with “Spring Breakers” last year, and my friends, cousin, and I all deplored that movie. “Under the Skin” is much better because of its looks, but it is still distasteful.

⭐️

 

How I Rate Movies

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Highest Rating

☠ Poison for the Mind (0/4)

Lowest Rating

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