The Classics – “The Cornetto Trilogy”

Welcome back to The Classics! Last time, I reviewed “John Wick” prior to “John Wick: Chapter 2.” Now I’m going to talk about Edgar Wright’s brilliant “Cornetto Trilogy,” leading up to “Baby Driver.”

The trilogy consists of “Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz,” and “The World’s End.” All three are buddy comedies spliced with different genres, resulting in three hilarious, wonderful love letters to film.

HUGE SPOILER ALERT FOR ALL THREE MOVIES!!!

“Shaun of the Dead”

Part zombie horror film and part romantic comedy, “Shaun of the Dead” stars Simon Pegg as the 29-year-old slacker Shaun. He’s pushed by his overbearing stepdad Philip (Bill Nighy) and his sweet girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield) to take life more seriously, though he would rather play video games with his unemployed best friend Ed (Nick Frost). Things grow worse for Shaun when he finds zombies in his garden, forcing him, Ed, Liz, and their friends to hide in their favorite pub during the zombie breakout.

“Shaun of the Dead” is a brilliant tribute to the zombie genre. Billed as “a romantic comedy with zombies,” the film is exactly that. It’s more about Shaun and Liz trying to reconcile their differences following their breakup. Of course, you have the overbearing parents, an antagonistic romantic rival, and the best friend comic relief. Edgar Wright shows restraint with these characters and they’re depicted as people.

Wright also builds up the zombie scenes with genius subtlety. In the opening act, we see Shaun go through his daily routine. He picks up a soda from a local supermarket, rides the bus to work, heads home, then to the Winchester Pub. As his day progresses, we see some sick people on the bus and brief news reports on background TV’s, and finally a zombie attack outside the Winchester. Wright chooses to feature all of this in the background, forcing the viewers to pay close attention.

Shaun and Ed are unlikely heroes; they want to save everyone, but exacerbate the situation as the movie progresses (there’s even an ongoing joke with the word “exacerbate” and it suits them well). After rewatching the movie, I feel the darkest part was the ending because had Shaun and Ed remained home and waited for the military, everyone would have still been alive.

“Shaun of the Dead” is a terrific horror comedy because of the Easter eggs. Shaun and Ed’s roommate Pete (Peter Serafinowicz) blames Ed for leaving the front door open; however, I recently noticed that Shaun was the one leaving the door open.

“Shaun of the Dead” is a horror comedy that appeals to most movie goers. I have family members and friends who hate both horror movies and violent movies, but they adore “Shaun of the Dead.” After rewatching this, I’m considering revising my top 10 favorite films list.

Grade: A+

“Hot Fuzz”

Highly decorated police officer Nicolas Angel (Simon Pegg) constantly humiliates his department with his high arrest records, resulting in his transfer to the seemingly perfect village, Sanford. He’s bored with the small town life until a series of gory accidents occur; this leads to a bromantic partnership between Angel and fellow officer Danny Butterman (Nick Frost) and an explosive shoot-em-up climax.

“Hot Fuzz” is more energetic and fast-paced than “Shaun of the Dead;” Blink and you’ll miss the sharpest joke and visual gags. “Hot Fuzz” is an effective satire on not only action films, but small town culture. Sanford has a “Twin Peaks” vibe in the sense it’s a seemingly peaceful and quiet town with something sinister.

The twist behind the neighborhood watch killing embarrassing residents is both funny and terrifying. It’s funny since they killed a writer for misspelling their name and disturbing since they’re gaslighting gullible Sanford residents.

Pegg and Frost once again have terrific chemistry as Angel and Danny. Frost is once again the goofy manchild, but he has more heart in “Hot Fuzz” than “Shaun of the Dead.” Pegg pulls off some surprisingly impressive stunt work and action star charisma; why in the hell isn’t he doing more action movies?

Wright shows versatility with his direction in “Hot Fuzz,” directing action scenes with great panache and energy. I was impressed by him using Michael Bay’s cinematographic trademarks and outclassing Bay (not that that’s hard to do). The climax is twenty minutes of firing dual pistols, high speed chases, knife throwing, missile kicking, and grisly uses of steeples and bear traps.

“Hot Fuzz” is another one that gets better every time I watch it. If I had one nit-pick, it’s that Wright’s use of violence is uneven. All gore effects are innovative and insane, but in the first half, it’s easy to mistaken “Hot Fuzz” as a slasher movie. “Hot Fuzz” doesn’t feel like an action movie until the climax. Nonetheless, “Hot Fuzz” is still a total blast.

Grade: A

“The World’s End”

In the most mature installment, alcoholic Gary King (Simon Pegg) lives in the past and manipulates his old high school friends Andrew Knightley (Nick Frost), Oliver “O-Man” Chamberlain (Martin Freeman), Steven Prince (Paddy Considine), and Peter Page (Eddie Marsan) into joining him on an epic pub crawl in their hometown. They have to visit 12 bars and drink 12 pints until they reach The World’s End. Except they don’t remember a robot army inhabiting their hometown.

“The World’s End” is the trilogy’s most experimental installment and it polarized fans upon release. It’s experimental in Pegg and Frost switching roles with Pegg playing the hot mess and Frost the straight man. The film’s narrative structure is clever with an opening flashback that foreshadows the rest of the film. While “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz’s” humor were primarily visual and physical humor, “The World’s End” relies mostly on witty dialogue and fast-paced conversation.

The first act is a slow start, allowing us to get to know Gary and his friends. We see that Gary is the only one who hasn’t gotten his life together while his friends feel sorry for him and instantly regret joining him. That doesn’t mean there’s no shortage of humor (pay attention to a reoccurring joke about selective memory).

The second act is a wild blend of well-choreographed fight scenes, some eerie horror moments reminiscent of “Body Snatchers,” and hilarious drinking sequences that show both the fun and dark sides of drinking. Gary is an alcoholic and has a good time drinking and fighting robots while his friends resent him for it (Gary is the one who exacerbated the situation).

The final act escalates to a frenetic combination of humor, depression, and catastrophe. It’s not a physical climax like the previous films, but entirely verbal as Gary, Andy, and Steven challenge The Network (Bill Nighy) to an epic debate about human nature and free will. It’s an insightful, vulgar, and highly quotable scene (I’ve jokingly yelled, “Fuck off, you big lamp” at bright lights ever since).

Fans are divided on the closing scene, which depicts the world in a post-apocalyptic state and Gary is now a sword-wielding warrior repeating the Golden Mile. I loved this ending personally because even though the world is a living hell, Gary still has a good time. Plus he’s now sober and has come to terms with his demons, so he wins in the end.

I loved “The World’s End” for its darker tone and chances it took. I’m going to rank it as superior to “Hot Fuzz.”

Grade: A+

Thanks for taking the time to read the review of my favorite movie trilogy. Stay tuned for my review of “Baby Driver!”

“Rough Night”

What do “Bridesmaids,” “The Hangover,” “Weekend at Bernie’s,” and “Very Bad Things” all have in common? The new dark comedy “Rough Night” pays homage to all of them… Maybe a little too much.

The engaged and overworked Jess (Scarlett Johansson) reluctantly goes to Miami when her estranged friends host her bachelorette party. We’re then introduced to the eccentric Australian native Pippa (Kate McKinnon), overly dependent Alice (Jillian Bell), social justice warrior Frankie (Illana Glazer), and wealthy single mom Blair (Zoe Kravitz).

The party begins as a cliched party we’ve seen several times as characters snort coke, get drunk, and have a botched dance number. When they head home and order a stripper, things escalate to a dark level after Alice accidentally kills the stripper in morbid fashion. What now?!

“Rough Night” didn’t have the best trailer and I only saw it to get out of the house. “Rough Night” consists of a standard first act, hilarious second act, and an implausible final act. It benefits thanks to the cast’s performances. At least it’s better than the trailer.

Johansson has surprisingly sharp comedic delivery (I want to say it’s her first comedy) as the straight-faced Jess. Her deadpan delivery matches McKinnon and Bell’s absurd banters. McKinnon steals every scene with her impeccable improvising and perfectly timed expressions. Bell, Kravitz, and Glazer were hit and miss for me, but when they hit, I laughed hard.

Demi Moore and Ty Burrell steal one scene as married swingers trying to seduce the protagonists. It begins as a typical crude sexual situation, becomes uncomfortable, then ends in a darkly funny punch line.

The writers take the greatest chances in the second act. Whether we’re watching a character hustle meth for gas money, characters hide a dead body on a swing, or take a pizza break after cleaning their crime scene, I was impressed with how far “Rough Night” went.

END SPOILERS!!!

The final act kills the movie with its implausible and disappointing ending. The characters walk free thanks to a good Samaritan law that likely exists for movie logic. I would have preferred the writers to keep their mean streak and have the characters’ fates go a darker direction, but most movie-goers prefer the happy ending.

Despite the disappointing conclusion, I’m happy to see a comedy take chances. Especially considering I’m still getting over “Baywatch.”

Grade: C+

“The Mummy”

Studios are banking off of the MCU with their own movie universes. First, Warner Bros started the DCEU and then the Monster Universe shortly after. Now Universal has started the Dark Universe with “The Mummy” as their first installment. I’ll stick to the 1999 Brendan Fraser version, thank you.

U.S. Military officer Nick Morton (Tom Cruise), his partner Chris (Jake Johnson), and archeologist Jennifer Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) discover a secret tomb in Iraq. When they bring the mummified corpse of Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) back with them, they unintentionally unleash hell on earth as Ahmanet comes to life and goes on a rampage. Nick, however, discovers he might be the only thing that can stop Ahmanet.

I’m a Tom Cruise fan and was intrigued after learning he was starring in “The Mummy.” Partially because it’s his first horror film (if you can call it horror) and partially because I wanted to see what death-defying stunt Cruise was going to perform next. Aside from a terrific plane crash sequence and an insane bus stunt, the action is lackluster.

“The Mummy” is 107 minutes of Tom Cruise running and screaming, Jake Johnson yelling, “I’m gonna die,” Russell Crowe delivering exposition-fueled monologues, and Annabelle Wallis playing damsel-in-distress. This results in a rather dull summer movie. I wanted to like “The Mummy,” but I found it underwhelming.

Sofia Boutella is a talented actress, but she’s underused in her role as Ahmanet. She isn’t terrifying or menacing (Arnold Vosloo is superior in the 1999 “Mummy”) and has little to do, despite wearing wicked makeup. In terms of villains, Crowe’s Henry Jekyll steals a few scenes.

Watching Cruise and Crowe banter is one of the movie’s few treats. Cruise’s boyish charm perfectly matches Crowe’s stern, deadpan delivery. They both are clearly trying and easily carry the movie, despite the weak script.

The script suffers from some serious tone inconsistencies. We get some darkly hilarious hallucination sequences reminiscent of “An American Werewolf in London,” but they don’t mash well with lame jump scares or the movie’s adventure tone. Also, it’s insulting that the movie’s six screenwriters don’t trust the viewers enough to figure things out for themselves.

“I drove back to her,” Cruise says as he obviously drives back to Boutella, attempting a getaway.

I’m a fan of the classic Universal monsters, but this is a disappointing start. Hopefully they find their footing in future installments.

Grade: C-

“It Comes at Night”

The apocalyptic horror genre is one of my favorites because it raises moral questions about survival. How far will you go to survive? Can you trust anyone? Can you live with killing someone? “It Comes at Night” asks these questions and the answer from watching this is no. “It Comes at Night” is the most haunting film I’ve seen this year.

An unknown plague has wiped out most of civilization. A family of three lives in a secluded mansion in the woods and consists of father Paul (Joel Edgerton), mother Sarah (Carmen Ejogo), and teenaged son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). They offer shelter to a mysterious man named Will (Christopher Abbott) and his wife Kim (Riley Keough) after a brief violent confrontation.

Rules are established, but the two most important ones are don’t go out at night and leave the red door locked at all times. Will someone break the rules? Can Paul trust Will? Why does Travis wonder the house at night?

“It Comes at Night” is an unconventional apocalyptic horror film. Yes, there are gas masks, a nasty human virus, and barbaric standoffs. But there isn’t a known source of the virus, zombies, or a soldier with a false promise. That’s where writer/director Trey Edward Shults excels is his focus on the characters and minimal setting.

The characters stay within the home or its grounds. When they’re together, they have brief conversations and little is known about them, leaving the viewer to analyze them. The ruthless Paul is a former history teacher, so he was likely civilized prior to the virus. Will had various odd jobs before the outbreak and relocated several times during, so he struggles to protect his family.

“It Comes at Night” is told primarily through Travis’s point of view. He witnesses Paul’s survival instincts and realizes he may have to take drastic measures to survive. He has a series of nightmares that risk being cliched, but are ultimately used to reflect Travis’s emotions or foreshadow what’s to come. They’re refreshingly chilling sequences.

“It Comes at Night” will likely polarize audiences since some viewers will love its artistic take on horror while others will compare it unfavorably to “The Walking Dead.” I personally am on board and can’t stop thinking about this masterful study of human nature.

Grade: A

“Wonder Woman”

The DCEU has finally gotten their act together! After their three consecutive misfires (“Man of Steel,” “Batman vs. Superman,” and “Suicide Squad”), they’ve redeemed themselves with “Wonder Woman.”

Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) grows up training to fight Ares, the God of War. She’s trained by her fierce aunt Antiope (Robin Wright) until one day a soldier named Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) appears on their beach, informing them of World War I. Diana agrees to help Steve stop a powerful enemy, under the assumption it will end all war. But will it?

“Wonder Woman” is the first DC film since the original “Superman” that paints heroism in a positive light. Diana doesn’t bomb buildings like in Tim Burton’s “Batman” or recklessly destroy buildings and kill thousands of people in a fight like “Man of Steel.” She fights, kills only when provoked, and she saves people (did Superman save anyone in “Man of Steel?”).

Diana’s flaw is often highlighted in key scenes where she has to decide between saving someone in front of her or pursuing the greater evil and save thousands of lives. This sets up some emotionally investing conflicts as she learns the hard way that she can’t save everyone; even if she wins a battle.

Gal Gadot is charismatic as the lead heroine; despite showing off impressive stunt work, I was more impressed with her emotional moments. It’s sweet watching her discover small joys such as babies or ice cream. It’s funny to see her match an outfit with her battle gear. It’s sad watching her mourn the loss of loved ones in battle and learning war has consequences.

Chris Pine brings boyish charm as the sly Trevor. He acts as Diana’s mentor, partner, and lover. I was more invested in their mentor-protege and buddy cop relationships rather than the actual romance. The romance between them is forced, but not annoying.

The main villains could have also used some more development and originality since they are cliched mad scientists; however, “Wonder Woman” is about the hero and not the villain, so I’ll let it pass.

Director Patty Jenkins also pulls off something few indie directors have accomplished: transition from a low-budget film to a big blockbuster and direct both competently. Each action sequence looks like an expressionist painting and are strengthened by Jenkins’s exceptional use of slow motion (a style I’ve resented in recent years).

“Wonder Woman” is arguably the best film so far this summer. And when that guitar solo kicks in during action sequences, it will likely have you quietly saying, “Yes,” like it did for me.

Grade: A-

“Baywatch”

I need to stop seeing movies just because they have Dwayne Johnson. Who am I kidding? He’s he most electrifying man in entertainment after all (WWE joke). He’s too good for “Baywatch” and this movie is just another studio cash grab.

Veteran lifeguard Mitch Buchannon (Johnson) recruits a new batch of guards to join his team. This includes the tough Summer Quinn (Alexandra Daddario), socially awkward Ronnie (Jon Bass), and the cocky former Olympian Matt Brody (Zac Efron). Mitch and Brody automatically dislike each other in buddy comedy fashion, but have to put their differences aside when they discover drugs are surfacing on the beach.

People laughed at me when I said I was seeing “Baywatch.” Besides seeing it for Johnson, I actually saw potential in this movie. The original show was a cheese fest and could easily spawn a satirical adaptation ala “21 Jump Street.” Sadly, “Baywatch” isn’t that adaptation.

“Baywatch” is directed by Seth Gordon, who made the brilliant transgressive comedy “Horrible Bosses.” “Baywatch” is rated R like “Horrible Bosses,” but Gordon and the writers do nothing with it other than show a penis and spout a few dozen F-words. It’s not transgressive, offensive, meta, and worst of all, not funny.

Johnson and Efron have good chemistry, and they’re clearly doing their best to entertain the viewers, but it’s sadly not enough to overcome the long length time, redundant narrative, and overly serious tone. Do we need a tortured soul subplot in the middle of a vomit gag?

“Baywatch” is two hours of Mitch lecturing Brody on his selfishness and calling him a boy band name, then Brody admitting he screwed up and redeeming himself. Brody’s back story of puking during a team swim meet is sad and pathetic instead of funny.

How many comedies do we need with a dead body gag? How many do we need with a guy getting his junk stuck in public? How many do we need with someone clumsily falling into a pool with their clothes on? There’s already a “Baywatch” sequel in the works, so is there room for improvement? Yes. Will it improve? Probably not.

Grade: D-

“Alien: Covenant”

There is some optimism in the gory nightmarish prequel “Alien: Covenant.” Since this takes place before “Alien” and has dumber characters, at least I know humanity gets smarter in the future.

SPOILERS FROM HERE ON!

The Covenant is a ship searching for new life. Its crew includes the tough-minded Daniels (Katherine Waterson), wisecracking cowboy Tennesse (Danny McBride), an insecure man of faith Oram (Billy Crudup), and the android synthetic Walter (Michael Fassbender). Along their way to inhabit a new planet, they discover a distress beacon at a closer planet.

Upon arrival, the place appears to be a heaven, but the crew learns it’s more of a hell when they encounter xenomorphs and the “Prometheus” synthetic David (Michael Fassbender).

The great Ridley Scott maintains the philosophical tone of “Prometheus” while paying homage to the original “Alien.” It’s a dark, gory space odyssey with intelligent androids and dimwitted humans. Scott directs each blood splatter and surreal image with beauty.

“Covenant” spends the first two acts exploring darker themes and building each character. We get a platonic friendship between the widowed Daniels and Tennessee, Daniels and Oram clashing over the mission, and Walter learning from everyone.

Fassbender delivers a brilliant dual-performance as Walter and David. Scott directs each of their interactions with long takes and tight frames to depict the androids’ homoerotic bond. David is more villainous than ever and acts as a demonic egomaniac.

The writers brilliantly address a thought on the “Alien” franchise I’ve had: why don’t the xenomorphs and androids interact with each other? We get scenes with the two together and the xenomorphs are indifferent. In one fascinating scene, David communicates with a new alien like its his own child. “You have to show respect,” he says.

Sadly, the horror sequences and characters are underwhelming, save for one terrifying lab scene halfway through. The aliens decapitate, chest burst, spine burst, impale, and rip apart the crew, but since each character thinks splitting up is smart, these sequences are predictable and boring.

The climax could have used a little more work because it feels too easy and convenient; its obvious twist briefly saves the ending due to atmosphere and the casts’ performance. And what’s with James Franco’s obscure cameo? Can we have smarter characters and more James Franco next time?

Grade: B+

 

“King Arthur: Legend of the Sword”

For a hero as epic and legendary as King Arthur, constantly using montages makes him rather underwhelming. Writer/director Guy Ritchie seems content with that in “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.”

If you’ve seen “Hamlet,” “The Lion King,” “Sons of Anarchy,” or “Man of Steel,” you already know the plot of “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.” Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) is the son of a deceased king and must fight his tyrannical uncle (Jude Law) for the throne. With Excalibur and some loyal sidekicks, he discovers his full potential.

Guy Ritchie is a talented, energetic director who’s known for witty dialogue and energetic montages. Given most of the dialogue is exposition and the montages are redundant, “Legend of the Sword” is neither as witty or energetic as Ritchie’s previous works. It’s a mess!

“Legend of the Sword” is rated PG-13; however, the choppy editing clearly shows Ritchie wanted to make an R-rated movie. Each kill cuts away to another angle or to a completely different scene, making me wonder if there’s an R-rated director’s cut coming to Blu-Ray.

Ritchie’s screenplay, unfortunately, isn’t any better. It’s generic and disjointed; “Legend of the Sword” can’t decide if it wants to be an epic fantasy or a witty medieval-themed heist movie. Ritchie also seems a little too comfortable writing female characters to be imprisoned, tortured, beaten, and sacrificed on a regular basis.

As mentioned, there are sequences where Ritchie could have explored certain myths or done some world building. In one particular sequence, Arthur has to fight several creatures in a place called the Blacklands to train with Excalibur. Ritchie condenses this potentially exciting sequence into a lackluster montage without any drama or spectacle.

Charlie Hunnam is a competent protagonist, but his portrayal of Arthur is strongly reminiscent of his work in “Sons of Anarchy.” He’s having fun and there are times where he saves the scene with his charisma. Hopefully, he receives a better script to work with in the future.

Grade: D

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”

I am Groot… I am Groot…  I am impressed with “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.” It’s the first MCU sequel done right since “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”

After completing another successful mission, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) meet the enigmatic Ego (Kurt Russell). He helps the group and reveals himself to be Peter’s dad, shocking the group.

Meanwhile, Yondu (Michael Rooker) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) return to settle their scores, Peter and Gamora must deal with their feelings, Rocket Raccoon comes to terms with who he is, and Baby Groot dances adorably.

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” maintains its predecessor’s energy, colorful effects, kinetic action sequences, and killer soundtrack. It takes the humor and character moments up a few notches, resulting in a surprisingly hilarious and emotional sequel. If “Vol. 1” is “A New Hope,” then “Vol. 2” is “The Empire Strikes Back.”

Without getting too much into the plot, the Guardians split into two groups where alliances form, betrayals occur, and revelations are revealed. Quill spends a portion of the movie torn between family and his destiny; it’s bittersweet and sometimes heartbreaking.

“Vol. 2” is fun, though! Don’t let my description fool you. The standout sequences are a delightful opening credits sequence, a space ship battle that’s an obvious nod to the arcade gaming era, and any scene involving Yondu (Rooker kills it).

The cast is once again great with their chemistry and comedic timing; they’re even better in their dramatic moments. Kurt Russell’s performance is a little too exposition-heavy, but his charm and charisma make it acceptable.

I could have done without Sylvester Stallone as Stakar Ogord. He literally has two minutes of screen time, angrily delivers exposition about Yondu, and leaves until the end. For a hyped character, I expected more for Sly to do.

The MCU has a bad history with sequels, but “Vol. 2” proves you don’t have to one-up all elements for a sequel; it’s okay to slow down and expand on the characters’ back story. You don’t see that in a superhero film often, which is admirable.

Grade: A-

“Unforgettable”

The stalker film is dead. After “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle,” “Unlawful Entry,” “The Gift,” “The Loft,” “Mother’s Boys,” “Fear,” “When the Bough Breaks,” “Fatal Attraction,” and now “Unforgettable,” can we agree it’s time to call it quits? Especially since “Unforgettable” rips off several of the titles mentioned above?

Successful blogger Julia (Rosario Dawson) gets engaged to the handsome David (Geoff Stults), but they both have baggage. Julia has an abusive ex she hasn’t told David about. David’s ex, Tessa (a surprisingly solid Katherine Heigl) isn’t over David and wants to ruin Julia’s life. If you’ve seen any of the movies I mentioned earlier, you can guess what happens next.

I don’t know what prompted Dawson and Heigl to star in “Unforgettable,” but they look as miserable as their characters throughout this unforgettable trash. The only times they seem to enjoy themselves are when they’re drinking (I’m almost positive that’s actual alcohol).

I’ll give props to Heigl. I’m not a fan, but she provides a few chilling moments. It’s not enough to make up for the film’s generic, unsubtle, unimaginative, illogical, and sexist screenplay.

The best psycho thrillers start subtle and slowly reveal the character’s sinister traits. I liked Gordo in “The Gift,” Pete in “Unlawful Entry,” Jude in “Mother’s Boys,” David in “Fear”, and Alex in “Fatal Attraction” upon introduction because they were restrained. There’s no subtlety in Tessa’s introduction and we know right away she’s nuts!

“Unforgettable” borrows heavily from the films mentioned earlier. Whether it’s a steamy public sex scene (“Fear”), Julia receiving an anonymous gift on the porch (“The Gift”), or Tessa kicking someone out of her car after having sex (“Unlawful Entry”), the writers seem content writing a serious of homages to superior thrillers.

As far as logic goes, “Unforgettable” has zilch. How can someone have a fancy house, but can’t afford to pay their lawyer? Why are people so casual about Tessa’s controlling, abusive behavior? Why do most conversations revolve around men and how good they are in bed?

We’re also treated to an unwanted cliffhanger that will set up a sequel. SPOILER ALERT – the sequel (if it gets made at all) will have Tessa’s overbearing mother (Cheryl Ladd) as the villain. But why?! “Unforgettable” would have passed as a character study of a broken, unstable anti-hero; not the millionth psycho stalker movie.

Grade: D-

“Colossal”

Self-destructive behavior is toxic and harmful to others. Especially when you’re self-destructive and control a Kaiju. Wait, what?

“Colossal” stars Anne Hathaway as Gloria. She’s an unemployed alcoholic who’s boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens) dumps her. She returns to her hometown and befriends bar owner Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) and his pals Joel (Austin Stowell) and Garth (Tim Blake Nelson), indulging in several binders.

Meanwhile, a Kaiju surfaces and attacks South Korea. Gloria’s further alarmed when she discovers she’s the one who controls this creature and has to right her wrongs. Oscar and Tim both stand in her way, creating humor and tension.

“Colossal” was advertised as a sci-fi comedy, but don’t be fooled. This is NOT a comedy, but a character study. Gloria’s drinking and selfish behavior hurt Tim and Oscar while her creature moments devastate a whole country. The creature is a metaphor for self-loathing; who knew a giant monster movie could have such strong social commentary?

Oscar and Tim aren’t saints either. Oscar depends on Gloria and controls her, making himself feel better. Tim, on the other hand, critiques Gloria for her behavior but condescends her choices she makes in pulling herself together. He clearly has high expectations of her that aren’t met.

Hathaway plays Gloria gracefully, heightening the character’s flaws and noble intentions with humor and emotion. Sudeikis delivers one of his best performances as Oscar. He’s pathetic and abusive, but also tragic and occasionally funny (he steals one scene with fireworks and a monologue about irresponsibility). That’s not easy to accomplish.

Writer/director Nacho Vigalondo transitions “Colossal” between several genres smoothly without force. The creature effects are impressive on a small budget and even the dramatic moments are shot like a monster movie. Audiences will be divided over “Colossal” because some viewers will praise it for its depth and others will criticize it for being misleading. All I say is give “Colossal” a chance.

Grade: A

“The Void”

Props to indie filmmakers Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie for designing some horrifying and innovative creatures via Kickstarter in “The Void.” They have a bright future as genre filmmakers, even if this body horror flick doesn’t meet its potential.

Sheriff’s Deputy Daniel Carter (Aaron Poole) takes a drug addict to the closest hospital. His estranged wife Allison (Kathleen Munroe) nurses the patient and there’s tension between the couple. They have bigger problems when a knife-wielding cult surrounds them and patients mutate into carnivorous creatures.

I’m a big fan of horror films and the body horror subgenre. Body horror utilizes visuals and psychological dread while showing some wicked gore effects. “The Void” excels in the gore and visuals, but unfortunately, not the dread. I found myself checking how much time was left at least twice.

Kotanski and Gillespie show off their love for John Carpenter and Clive Barker through their use of siren lighting, its siege formula, evil cults, and parasites emerging from peoples’ bodies. They seem too caught up in paying homage to “The Thing” and we never learn about the cult or the monsters.

The second act is riddled with cliches. I’ve seen the cult using a woman to give birth to their demonic god, people brainwashed into killing each other, and half-dead guys dragging axes across the floor. Give me something I haven’t seen already!

The characters aren’t particularly likable, given Daniel is a self-loathing moron, Allison is a thinly written damsel-in-distress, and Nurse Kim (Ellen Wong from “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”) is an incompetent crybaby. It’s 2017, aren’t we done with the poorly written female characters yet?

The silver lining to “The Void” is its ending. Of course, it’s left open for a sequel, which can expand its world and mythology. And hopefully, give us some better-written characters?

Grade: C-

“Free Fire”

It’s not easy directing violence in a humorous tone. Certain directors do it well, but I didn’t expect Ben Wheatley (last year’s pretentious and underwhelming “High-Rise”) to be one of them. “Free Fire” is a fun action comedy.

IRA members Chris (Cillian Murphy) and Frank (Michael Smiley) meet the eccentric arms dealer Vernon (Sharlto Copley) to buy M-16’s in a warehouse. Ord (Armie Hammer) and Justine (Brie Larson) are business representatives on opposite sides trying to maintain peace. Things go south when Vernon sells Chris the wrong weapons and Frank’s Stevo brother-in-law (Sam Riley) instigates a shootout. Then it’s 70 minutes of shooting.

“Free Fire” is a 90-minute-long film. The first 20 minutes is the arms deal while the remaining 70 is a loud, frenetic gunfight. It’s a battle royale scenario combined with slapstick humor. Everyone gets shot at least once, but there are some morbid sequences involving a van, a needle, gasoline, and a crowbar that make “Free Fire” innovative.

I’m not a fan of Wheatley’s previous films, but he pays great attention to detail in his directing. The soundtrack and clothes show his love of the 70’s and the minimize set is an authentic depiction of a sleazy warehouse. Wheatley first created his set playing “Minecraft” and it shows, given all the props and set designs.

The cast members are all great. Copley combines his charisma with some great physical humor, Hammer is cool and deadpan, and Larson is an unconventional femme fatale. She’s just doing her job and wants to get out alive. That doesn’t mean she’s afraid to shoot a couple people in the face, though.

There could have been some more time to explore each character, but Wheatley gives us enough time getting to know the characters during the shootouts. They get stoned, straighten their hair, insult each other, and tell stories while shooting at each other. That’s enough to satisfy me.

Grade: B+

“Sandy Wexler”

I’m rooting for Adam Sandler. As much as I hate his current movies, I’m rooting for the guy to make another great comedy reminiscent of “Funny People,” “Anger Management,” and “Happy Gilmore.” “Sandy Wexler” is unfortunately not that comeback.

Sandler is the titular character. Wexler is a famous talent manager known for his fierce loyalty and dedication to his clients. Despite his credibility, he lives in the guest house of a mansion, drives a crappy car, and his biggest client is a poor man’s Evil Knievel (Nick Swardson). That’s until he meets a beautiful zoo performer (Jennifer Hudson) and launches her stardom.

Props to Sandler for scrapping his traditional tiresome mean-spirited behavior and attempting to be more sentimental. Unfortunately, “Sandy Wexler” is an uneven and uncomfortable failure. I laughed maybe once, but I can’t even remember the joke.

“Sandy Wexler” is told in a non-linear, mockumentary structure that’s more self-indulgent than clever. It’s just an excuse for Sandler’s friends Jon Lovitz, Kevin Nealon, Dana Carvey, Chris Rock, and David Spade to have cameos. Sandler also attempts to portray Wexler as a lovable ne’er-do-well, but how are we supposed to root for a guy whose biggest flaw is being a compulsive liar?

Jennifer Hudson shows off some great singing chops, but her soulful performance doesn’t mesh with Sandler berating incompetent extras or fleeing angry attack dogs repeatedly. Several jokes in the film are overdone in a 130-minute run time, so the film could have trimmed at least 30 minutes altogether.

I’m not kidding when I say I want Adam Sandler to redeem himself. With “Punch-Drunk Love” (my all-time favorite romantic comedy) under his belt, the man is quite talented. But this 50-year-old actor has to realize that the childish voices and violent temper tantrums aren’t what people want anymore. Fingers crossed he takes the hint before his next movie.

Grade: D

“The Fate of the Furious”

Who would have thought that a “Point Break” rip-off called “The Fast & the Furious” would have spawned seven sequels? I didn’t. Who would have thought the franchise would have gone from the gearhead genre to the spy genre? I didn’t. “The Fate of the Furious” sticks to the spy roots.

Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are on their honeymoon when a mysterious terrorist named Cipher (Charlize Theron) persuades Dominic to join her organization. Letty and Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) lead their team alongside Mr Nobody (Kurt Russell) and their old nemesis Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) to stop Dominic and Cipher’s plan.

The “Fast and Furious” franchise is a ridiculous blast. I personally wasn’t a fan of the first two installments since they were too serious, but each installment got better. “The Fate of the Furious” doesn’t reach the same level of fun as “Fast Five” and “Fast and Furious 6,” or the same emotional level as “Furious 7,” but it’s still solid escapism.

Most of the cast members are clearly having a blast. Johnson and Statham break character making each other laugh mid-banter, Kurt Russell is cool as always, and Tyrese Gibson and Ludracris once again add a great dose of humor. Even Helen Mirren has a rich cameo as a reluctant ally of the team.

Diesel, on the other hand, has no passion or effort in his performance. He goes from low tone to screaming like Nicolas Cage, and it’s sad to watch. I also expected more from Theron, but she phones in every cool-spoken philosophical monologue. It’s more cliched than menacing.

“The Fate of the Furious” features some frenetic action sequences, including raining cars from the sky and a battle royale-style prison fight. The climactic submarine duel is underwhelming since it feels reminiscent of “Fast and Furious 6’s” climax.

I applaud “The Fate of the Furious” for maintaining its fun over-the-top style and we have two more installments. However, with the loss of Paul Walker, the film struggles to maintain its heart and soul. Hopefully they’ll restore this within the next installment along with Diesel’s passion.

Grade: B-

Franchise ranked 1-8:

  1. Fast Five
  2. Fast & Furious 6
  3. Furious 7
  4. The Fast & the Furious: Tokyo Drift
  5. The Fate of the Furious
  6. Fast & Furious
  7. The Fast & the Furious
  8. 2 Fast 2 Furious

“Your Name”

After reading a few reviews, I’m happy I gave a little anime film called “Your Name” a chance. This is a beautiful mind-bender with a rewarding payoff.

Taki and Mitsuha, two Japanese high school students, wake up to find they’ve swapped bodies. They wake up the following day back in their normal bodies, and then again the next day having swapped again. Why? They don’t know and neither to we. This keeps happening as they try to solve this mystery.

“Your Name” is an innovative depiction of time. It utilizes subtlety and editing to keep you guessing what’s going on. Pay close attention to each time a door opens or shuts to catch the body swaps. “Your Name” contains no exposition-fueled monologues, which is a nice change of pace for a sci-fi/fantasy film.

Taki and Mitsuha’s story is more emotional than fantasized. Taki deals with angst and not knowing his place in the world while Mitsuha deals with an estranged father and a difficult political climate. They help each other using text messages and notepad apps in their phones (a clever use of modern technology). They feel like real teenagers and not soap opera characters.

Director Makoto Shinkai (“The Garden of Words”) has made a beautifully drawn film that explores the power of dreams and twilight, as well as the beauty and horror of comets. Each time I felt “Your Name” was slowing down, something new would happen that kept my attention.

“Your Name” is exhausting to watch because we want Taki and Mitsuha to solve their own mystery. Each time they come close, something stops them, whether it’s a person, a dream, or a disaster. It gets mildly redundant, but thankfully the ending is sweet, poetic, and ambiguous enough to keep us wondering what happens afterwards.

Due to its popularity, we can count on a remake of “Your Name,” but it isn’t needed. Especially since the 2006 Keanu Reeves/Sandra Bullock vehicle “The Lake House” is a tamer version. Do yourselves a favor and just see “Your Name.” Especially if you’re an anime fan.

Grade: A

“Ghost in the Shell”

Scarlett Johansson is best with quiet, expressive roles and action heroines. In “Ghost in the Shell,” she does both and carries the ultimately bland cyberpunk film.

Humans have cybernetic technology and use it to enhance their strength, intelligence, and other traits. Major Mira Killian (Johansson), a cybernetic soldier, hunts for a mysterious cyber-terrorist (Michael Pitt) against her superiors’ orders. After encountering him, Killian recalls her past and realizes that her creators are hiding something.

I haven’t watched the anime, but from what I understand, “Ghost in the Shell” (1995) is one of the greatest anime films of all time. The live-action adaptation is uncertain if it wants to be a slow, artistic sci-fi film in tradition of “Blade Runner” (1982) or more action-packed like “Equilibrium” (2002).

The over-reliance on slow-mo action sequences are distracting from the film’s superb visuals and expressive moments. I enjoy Johansson performing her own stunts, but I was more interested in her character-driven moments. Rupert Sanders’s occasionally mesmerizing direction is best utilized in Killian’s solo scenes. It’s unfortunate there aren’t enough of those moments.

Writing wise, I prefer science fiction that shows the audience its world rather than tell us about it. The writers don’t trust their audience well since most dialogue scenes are exposition-fueled. Furthermore, the characters are emotionless with their delivery, with the exception of Pitt.

Pitt’s performance is cartoonish and I couldn’t tell if he was trying to sound damaged or imitate the Apple Macintosh. The best supporting performance goes to the great Takeshi Kitano as Chief Aramaki. Kitano only speaks Japanese in this role and delivers each line with sass, charisma, and confidence. Why hasn’t he gotten more American roles?!

“Ghost in the Shell” had potential to be a mind-bending sci-fi film due to its visuals, concepts, and Johansson’s compelling performance. Maybe the sequel will expand more on those attributes.

Grade: C+

“Power Rangers”

While watching “Power Rangers,” all I wanted was Krispy Kreme. Mmmmm…. Krispy Kreme….

In Angel Grove, a Breakfast Club ensemble of high school students befriend each other and find strange coins. The students are former football star Jason (Dacre Montgomery), ostracized mean girl Kimberly (Naomi Scott), the autistic Billy (RJ Cyler), new girl Trini (Becky G), and loner Zack (Ludi Lin).

The coins empower these kids and lead them to an ancient being named Zordon (Bryan Cranston), who trains them to be the next Power Rangers, protectors of the galaxy. Meanwhile, alien invader Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) searches for the Zeo Crystal in her plot for world domination.

“Power Rangers” isn’t an original film since it borrows heavily from “Man of Steel” and “Chronicle.” While those films were overly destructive, brooding, and cynical, “Power Rangers” depicts the optimistic side of one discovering powers. Sure, there’s some cheese, but that’s part of the fun.

“The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” was always a cheesy show with mindless action, but it had heart and great messages about diversity and friendship. “Power Rangers” maintains these messages, even when it occasionally treads on the dark side.

The original series depicted the characters as these perfect, popular kids, but in “Power Rangers,” they’re far from that. Jason is an outcast for letting down Angel Grove’s football team, Kimberly is guilt-ridden over a prank, Zack ditches school to take care of his mom, Billy’s often bullied for his disability, and Trini is afraid of coming out to her parents.

Any writer could have written these sensitive arcs in a juvenile fashion, but writer John Gatins (“Kong: Skull Island”) handles them maturely and realistically. All the rangers feel like kids and not caricatures. The cast does well with their roles, especially RJ Cyler as Billy (I related to him the most).

Elizabeth Banks steals the show as Rita Rapulsa and is clearly having a blast on camera. Whether she steals gold, brag about her plan, or eats a Krispy Kreme doughnut, she rocks.

Speaking of Krispy Kreme, “Power Rangers” over kills Krispy Kreme product placement, but it weirdly suits the plot and tone of the movie. It’s more charming than annoying. I would say the only let down of “Power Rangers” was the action was lackluster (lots of slow-mo, fast-mo fight scenes). But good news is there’s an upcoming sequel, which means room for improvement.

Grade: B+

“T2: Trainspotting”

It’s about time Danny Boyle and Ewan McGregor made amends and followed up “Trainspotting” (one of my favorite films) with a sequel. It’s better than half of the long-waited sequels.

Nearly 20 years after Mark (McGregor) stole money from his friends, Mark now lives in Amsterdam with a wife and career. He unexpectedly returns to Scotland and reconciles with estranged friends Simon (Jonny Lee Miller) and Spud (Ewen Bremmer). They aren’t as fortunate since Simon now makes a living blackmailing people and Spud has relapsed into his heroin addiction. Then the psycho Begbie (Robert Carlyle) escapes prison, raising hell for the trio.

The brilliant and kinetic Boyle once again shows flare and energy in this long-waited followup. “T2” might seem unnecessary, but there’s a sequel book (“Trainspotting” is based on a novel), so it’s somewhat necessary. When it slows down in storytelling, Boyle makes up for it with his visuals and music.

There are quite a few transgressive moments in “T2” that have the same level of energy as “Trainspotting.” Most of these moments are electrified by the cast. Whether it’s Mark singing a song about King William killing Catholics in front of an ecstatic audience, or Mark and Begbie realizing they’ve ran into each other in a sleazy men’s bathroom, the laughs are consistent.

“T2” slows down halfway through and shifts to a nostalgic tone, which is both admirable and frustrating. We see the characters in a new light with Mark realizing he’s not as innocent as he lets on, he and Simon are criticized by Simon’s girlfriend Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova), and Begbie sees the error in his ways.

Simultaneously, Spud spends most of his time writing a novel and these scenes result in pacing issues. Veronika’s subplot with her, Mark, and Simon nearly turn the film into a formulaic romantic comedy, but thankfully Begbie (an always great Robert Carlyle) saves the film from going that direction. Another plus about the nostalgic tone is viewers don’t need to see “Trainspotting” to follow along. “T2” stands on its own.

The ending scene is dark if you analyze it closely. Characters seem okay either staying in the same place or simply going backwards. “Trainspotting” was about rebelling against society, so it’s obvious these characters won’t snap out of their rebellion. And I’m okay with that!

Grade: B