I know no one is thinking about any film this weekend other than Star Wars The Force Awakens and I am right there with you. However, if you are going to wait for the crowds to diminish before venturing to see it, then here are some of the films I can recommend and some to avoid at all costs. This is a long article but you can pick and choose which ones you are interested in. Enjoy.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -Part 2 is the final installment of the franchise that has Jennifer Lawrence returning as Katniss Everdeen. She has become the leader, in a matter of speaking, of the rebellion with President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) pulling the strings. Seemingly benevolent, Katniss is more determined than ever to take Panem President Snow down. This is a role Lawrence was born to play and once again she is terrific. She owns this role. The film is solid and has some added depth with its characters. They no longer seem like kids but more mature and seem to know what is at stake. This is a very good film and a fitting ending to one of the better franchises in the last decade or so. It is well written, intelligent, extremely well acted and the action sequences are effective. It also has a few surprises that you won’t see coming. This is currently playing in theaters, so check your local listings. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay 2- ****out of 5. Rated PG-13
American Ultra is a nasty but neat little film that comes out of left field. It is very dark comedy but has a great bit of action, as well. Jesse Eisenberg plays Mike, a West Virginia stoner who has a rather simple life with his girlfriend, Phoebe (played with considerable charm by Kristen Stewart). He works the local convenience store, gets high with his friends and seems destined for nowhere. That is until he finds out he was trained as a CIA agent and assassin. American Ultra is nothing horribly original and follows familiar terrain but Eisenberg and Stewart are great together. They have sincere chemistry and Topher Grace’s intentional over-the-top performance make for an interesting and fun film. With a eclectic supporting from Connie Britton, John Leguizamo to Bill Pullman and Walter Coggins, American Ultra is clever and fresh, if not horribly original.American Ultra-*** out of 5. American Ultra is out on Dvd and On Demand and is rated R
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is one of the best films of the year in a franchise that is better each time around. The action is spectacularly staged and the film is filled with energy and excitement. Tom Cruise returns as Ethan Hunt along with his crew and an added attraction, the lovely Rebecca Ferguson playing Isla Faust. She may or may not be the enemy. This time around Hunt and his crew are battling the “Syndicate”, an anti-IMF team specializing in taking out IMF agents who are deep undercover. From the opening scene involving an Airbus-400 plane, this Mission is wall to wall action, but it has very developed characters so the action means something. Ferguson is a revelation; simply wonderful as she exudes both toughness and intelligence while maintaining some human frailties as the character. Cruise is the consummate showman in the best way and never fails to entertain. Writer and director Christopher McQuarrie has crafted a superb thriller; smart, fun filled with depth and a terrific bad guy Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) which amps up the tension. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation- ***** out of 5. It is now out on Dvd and On Demand and is Rated PG13.
Survivor stars Milla Jovovich as a terrorism expert who stumbles onto an immense cover up involving travel Visas being issued to terrorists. Their intended target is NYC but when she finds out, they frame her for a crime she did not commit. Pierce Brosnan is an assassin named Nash who targets Kate Abbot (Jovovich), but Survivor offers very little original thought and plods along, for the most part,on autopilot. This theme has been done to death and although Survivor has an impressive cast, in addition to Jovovich and Brosnan, including Robert Forster, Roger Rees (sadly, his last film), Dylan McDermott and James D’Arcy they are largely wasted on a routine chase picture. Director James McTeigue and writer Philip Shelby are under the impression we have never seen a film like this before and populate Survivor with cliches and stock characters, none of which I connected to, other than Jovovich. Despite some mild entertaining chases in the second act, Survivor is a missed opportunity. Not awful, but clearly there are much better films than this with the same subject matter. Survivor- **1/2 out of 5, is on Dvd and On Demand and is Rated PG13.
No Escape is the latest film from writers and directors (and brothers) John Erick and Drew Dowdle, the same guys who brought us Devil. Devil was a sleeper hit for me about five people on an elevator where one of them is the title character. These guys specialize in making low budget films that look like bigger budget films. Devil, As Above, So Below and now No Escape which has a budget of only of about three million dollars but looks like it is twice that on screen. The film, originally titled The Coup (which I like better) stars Owen Wilson and Lake Bell who move their family to an unnamed Southeastern Asian country when he accepts a job with an expanding American company. When a riot breaks out the day after they arrive, Westerners are being targeted for murder by the rioters. When they invade the hotel the family is staying, it is a chase as Wilson and Bell run with their two girls, for freedom. Pierce Brosnan plays a dubious gun-for-hire, who seems to be in a slew of gun-for-hire films, lately. One look at Hammond (Brosnan) and you know he is not who he presents himself as. The film is tense and riveting. I connected to the family and was invested in their story, even though there is not much here that we have not seen done before. Still it is good to see Owen Wilson in his first true action film since Behind Enemy Lines. No Escape is a competently made action film and is worth a watch. No Escape- *** out of 5, is rated R and is on Dvd and On Demand.
Minions is currently out on Dvd and On Demand, and although I found it disappointing, this is family entertainment and works primarily as more of a children’s film. There are some more adult jokes in it, but after the pleasant surprises of the Despicable Me films, I was hoping for more of the same clean, but very funny antics of Gru’s little minions. Instead, what I saw in Minions was a mildly amusing kids film. This was a far cry from what it should have been but it is a fun family treat and that is all it will ever be. This was a missed opportunity, but not a total disaster. The minions maintain their charm, but it is missing the fun almost satirical, point of view from the minion’s perspective. Minions- **3/4 out of 5
Ant-Man was one of the biggest and most pleasant surprises of the year. This is a film, I must admit, that I was not too sure about, but as I left the theater, had to admit it was a lot of fun. Ant-Man is the latest Marvel Comics incarnation and director Peyton Reed (Bring It On) has a firm grasp on the material and does it justice in spades. Witty with solid performances from everyone from star Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Anthony Mackie, Michael Pena and villainous Corey Stall as Darren Cross/Yellowjacket, Ant-Man is great family entertainment, as well. Script writers Edgar Frost (who departed the project early, but the studio and Reed wisely kept a large part of what Frost had written), Joe Cornish, Adam McKay and Paul Rudd, himself provide a polished script with well defined characters and terrific action. Visually the film looks great, as well. Marvel continues to knock them out of the park. Ant-Man-****3/4 out of 5 and is available on Dvd and On Demand.
Which brings me to the last two films on this list. Two films that are so horrendous, that it makes me depressed to even talk about them. Any utterance of their titles makes my flesh crawl. Okay…..*deep breath*……here we go….
Get Hard is a film that looked funny in the previews, but as I watched I was aghast at just how offensive, racist and completely unfunny this film is. Kevin Hart and Will Ferrell are funny people, to me and they seem to know what works and what does not. How this script was accepted by the studio is beyond me. Get Hard stars Ferrell as a financier who is framed for fraud. He has thirty day to get his affairs in order before he starts a ten year sentence in prison. So what does he do? Hires a black car detailer (Kevin Hart) to teach him how to survive in prison. Unlikable characters abound with just about every racial stereotype you can think of. Black people are uneducated dolts who can only get menial jobs and have been to prison. White people are stupid, racist, greedy swine and Hispanics are bitter house servants. Funny, ain’t it? Get Hard is obnoxious, abrasive and just plain DUMB. You know you have a stinker of a film when one of the guys from the Sonic burger joint commercials is in it. Get Hard has nothing going for it and nothing in it works. Assembly line plotting and scene after scene of Farrell and Hart flailing about with crappy material. It is not funny enough to be a comedy and not smart or clever enough to be satirical. They have a promising premise and have run it into the ground on the first try. It is a waste of 107 minutes. * out of 5
Ridiculous 6 is the latest Adam Sandler “comedy” and I use that term loosely. 2015 has not been a good year for Sandler. Completing his trifecta of crap with Pixels, The Cobbler and now Ridiculous 6. It was mired in the making when the Native American cast walked off of the set stating the film was ridiculing the Native American heritage and their customs. Have they never heard of Adam Sandler? That is all this guy has become. He is scraping the bottom of the barrel and any humor Sandler has had is long dried up. Like Get Hard, this film is offensive and completely without any redeeming qualities. It is inexplicably two solid hours long, but at ninety minutes it would STILL be too long. I watched this film and in the two hours, I did not smile or laugh once. NOT ONCE! There is not one character that I liked. There is not one gag that works. This film has an A list cast but everyone in it embarrasses themselves with a horrible script that relies on fart and defecation gags, racist Indian names and characters that were never real to me. It tries to be a homage to Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles, but what we get is a film that has no originality or freshness, at all. My advice to Sandler is to take some time off and let everyone who once believed in his abilities as an actor and writer, to catch their breaths. Ridiculous 6 is an atrocity. Ridiculous 6- NO STARS out of five. Netflix is the only place you can find this if you MUST subject yourself to this garbage. Just remember, you have been warned.
This was a long article but hopefully, you have enjoyed it and have some ideas of what to watch. As far as our videos are concerned, WE ARE PLANNING MORE VIDEOS, so do not despair. We have some other ideas we are working on and will keep you all updated. Stick with us. More written reviews are coming as well! Merry Christmas to all, and THANK YOU one and all for your support!!