“The Shallows”

Why do I still cover my eyes like a baby at shark movies? I know when a shark is swimming to surface for lunch, and when the protagonist will see the shark swimming full speed underwater, and yet I’m still afraid of these cliches? That’s the sign of a shark movie done well.

“The Shallows” is “Jaws” meets “127 Hours,” and we’re introduced to Blake Lively’s young surfer, Nancy. She travels to a secret beach in Mexico to go surfing, but her plans are cut short  when she’s attacked by a great white shark and stranded on a rock. She’s left with only her wit and stop watch to survive, and a wounded bird for company while devising an escape plan.

The biggest surprise about “The Shallows” was Blake Lively’s nuanced performance as Nancy. From the moment she’s introduced, we see Nancy isn’t a stupid horror movie protagonist, but rather an intelligent and down-to-earth surfer, mourning her deceased mother. The writers carefully avoided making Nancy a cliche and kudos to them.

Lively’s interactions with the bird and tough words towards the shark keep the film’s entertainment level high, so it isn’t always unpleasant to watch. We see some gory images of her shark bite and other shark attacks, but these are restrained due to the PG-13 rating.

“The Shallows” also features gorgeous cinematography that belongs on the Discovery Channel, and some impressive visuals that give other shark movies a run for their money. I wanted to look away from a scene where we see the shark’s shadow emerge in the waves, but I couldn’t because I was wowed.

The biggest problem with shark movies, whether it’s a good one like “The Shallows” or a bad one like “Sharknado,” cliches are inevitable. We know from camera angles, pacing, and music when the terror will occur, and we know how the hero will prevail.

“The Shallows” is more character-based than horror-based, so I can still recommend this movie to “Jaws” fans.

Grade: B

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“The Neon Demon”

You know you’re watching a Nicolas Wending Refn when there’s a lot of pretentious metaphors that are both obvious and heavy handed. You know you’re watching a Nicolas Wending Refn movie when it’s beautiful and loaded with surreal imagery. You know you’re watching a Nicolas Wending Refn movie when it’s so screwed up and polarizing, you feel bad for loving it.”The Neon Demon” is all of the above!

Elle Fanning stars as Jesse, an underage model who befriends makeup artist Ruby (a terrifying Jena Malone) and enters the modeling scene. She quickly befriends Ruby and two other models Gigi (Bella Heathcote) and Sarah (Abbey Lee) and also rises to the top of the fashion world. But at what cost?

“The Neon Demon” is part social commentary, part neo-noir, and part horror film (particularly psychological and body. While it’s overly fetishist, I walked out overwhelmingly intrigued by this psychotically entertaining movie. It’s arthouse meets grindhouse (like all of Refn’s movies) and it works.

Fanning’s Jesse  begins as the innocent young girl we see in several horror movies who discovers something evil. However, she doesn’t panic when exposed to terror and disturbing situations. She rather endorses it, biting the hand that feeds her. That’s more powerful than the formulaic horror movie.

Fanning delivers a mesmerizing performance as Jesse, and each line and stare is delivered brilliantly. Malone steals the show as Ruby, who acts as Jesse’s friend, then falls in love, and takes creepy stalker to a whole new level.

Speaking of creepy, Keanu Reeves appears as a wonderfully sleazy motel manager and he’s perfect in this role. He either needs to play more creepy characters or be in more Refn movies because he’s great in both.

Cliff Martinez’s music score matched with Refn’s signature neon colors creates fitting 80’s aesthetics, bringing out the model world’s sleaze. It also makes the horrific and disgusting sequences look beautiful (like the “Hannibal” series).

Why did I feel bad for loving this movie? There’s some crazy, disgusting sequences I never want to see again. This involves cannibalism and something kinky with a corpse that made me go, “WTF?” Much like the violence in Refn’s tasteless “Only God Forgives,” these sequences seem like a practice of fetishism. Luckily these are quick sequences and more restrained than “Only God Forgives.”

People are going to hate “The Neon Demon.” I can’t recommend it to anyone who likes movies, but for those who enjoy film analysis, horror films, and gorgeous imagery, this might be up your alley.

Grade: A-

“Independence Day: Resurgence”

Jeff Goldblum’s David utters after seeing the alien mothership, “That was… Uh, definitely… Bigger than the last one!” How about that was definitely dumber than the last one?!

So, if you’ve seen “Independence Day,” you know the plot of “Independence Day: Resurgence.” This time, we have alien technology to fight the aliens, but the aliens are packing stronger weaponry, as well.

“Resurgence” has the spectacle and effects that were as jaw dropping as its iconic predecessor, but it lacks three things:

  1. Its predecessor’s grand epic scale.
  2. Its predecessor’s charisma.
  3. Will Smith, so its predecessor’s charisma!

Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Judd Hirsch, and Vivica A. Fox return and deliver solid performances. Pullman’s turn as a traumatized war hero is some of his best work in years while Goldblum still has his wit. Are they the main characters? No. We get the whiny and dull Liam Hemsworth and Jesse T. Usher as cliched pilots we’ve seen a dozen times (including the first “Independence Day”).

“Resurgence” has some great ideas including the concept of us using alien technology to advance our planet, but we instead focus on dull character subplots that serve no purpose to the narrative. There was surprisingly some potential to a Roland Emmerich movie, but it’s lackluster. Not the worst movie I’ve seen this summer (or even this year), but it’s forgettable.

Grade: C

“Finding Dory”

The first fifteen minutes of “Finding Dory” were a drag until a funny thing happened – it tied into the beginning of “Finding Nemo.”

“Finding Dory” takes place a year after “Finding Nemo,” and Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) now lives with Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence). Marlin still struggles to tolerate Dory while Nemo looks up to her. When Dory begins to wonder where her parents are, she goes on a quest to find them, dragging Marlin and Nemo along. And like in its predecessor, they meet new friends, encounter perilous situations, and learn the meaning of family.

“Finding Dory” is a faster-paced film compared to “Nemo,” and we barely get a moment to breathe. I rarely consider animated movies intense, but I’ll make an exception in this case. I attribute this to the film being focused on Dory, our lovable fast-talking amnesiac fish.

Dory has a lot of depth in this one and we get an insightful study of short-term memory loss and its struggles. She also has a great moment where she monologues about not having a plan (no, not like “The Dark Knight”), and it makes her stand out more.

Marlin is along for the ride in “Finding Nemo,” and it’s a rehash of him overcoming his neurotic behavior. However, Ed O’Neil’s voice work as grumpy octopus Hank is fantastic. He’s a polar opposite of Dory, helping her on her adventure, despite trying hard to stay emotionally distant.

“Finding Dory” is an unnecessary sequel, and could have been boring, but between the beautiful animation, narrative tie-ins to “Nemo,” the origin of Dory’s whale-speaking, and the voice acting, it’s a solid sequel and better than “Cars 2,” and “Monster’s University.”

Grade: B+

“The Conjuring 2”

Throughout “The Conjuring 2,” I screeched, squeaked, gasped, and jumped. I also admired writer/director James Wan depicting paranormal investigating as a fairly romantic activity.

“The Conjuring 2” begins in Amnityville, with Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) uncovering the horrifying truth behind the infamous murders. They then retire briefly, only to come out of retirement when a single mother named Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor) discovers her family in London is terrorized by an unseen entity.

I just watched “The Conjuring” for the first time last week in preparation for the sequel, and was pleasantly surprised with Wan’s tribute to haunted house films. “The Conjuring 2” is a familiar-but-confident sequel with a surprising amount of heart. Though, at 134 minutes long, it can use a bit more editing.

The run-time is the film’s biggest weakness because the creepy knocks waking up the kids, the false alarms, and the ghosts popping out of the shadows grow redundant. That being said, there are still some great scary moments in which “The Conjuring 2” holds its own.

The opening five minutes in Amnityville is spookier and more terrifying than any of the “Amnityville Horror” films, we have a demonic nun stalking Lorraine throughout the film, and we see the most menacing possessed child since Linda Blair in “The Exorcist” (1973). James Wan knows horror films, and kudos to his panache.

One disappointing aspect is while the first “Conjuring” was less reliant on loud jump scares, “The Conjuring 2” is more reliant, making it come off occasionally cheap. I can forgive it, due to the scarier moments and its performances.

Wilson and Farmiga are once again terrific as the Warrens, and they’re the heart and soul of the film. We learn why Ed and Lorraine love each other and why they’re hesitant to continue their profession. They also have some sweet moments involving Elvis’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”

“The Conjuring 2” maintains the same style as its predecessor with the trick shots, focus on the Warrens and their bond with the families in need, and its introduction case being connected to the main case. I still recommend it to horror buffs and I know I’ll be having a double feature come Halloween time.

Grade: B+

“Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping”

“I’m so Humble,” “The Bin Laden Song,” and “Mona Lisa” are all now on my playlist, thanks to Andy Samberg’s Connor4Real. Guys, please see “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping!”

Connor4Real is a Justin Bieber-type popstar; he’s cocky, has an unusual pet, and he’s a perfectionist. After his first album becomes one of the best-selling albums of all time, he releases his second album, which flops and opens to extremely negative reviews (except for The Onion).

Connor is scrutinized by the media due to disastrous performances, bad publicity stunts, and a poor marketing move with house appliances. Connor then decides it’s time for a comeback and does whatever it takes to do so.

“Popstar” is from The Lonely Island (Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaeffer, the film’s co-directors), and these guys also brought us the criminally underrated “Hot Rod.” “Popstar” might top “Hot Rod” and is one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in recent years.

Taccone and Schaeffer wrote and directed “Popstar” like a documentary, which emphasizes the satirical references to Bieber and other popstars. Samberg steals every scene, whether he’s acting like a self-absorbed idiot or performing highly offensive and ridiculous songs.

Judd Apatow produced “Popstar,” so we know instantly that some scenes might go longer than we want, but even those scenes have some brutally funny jokes, featuring jabs at pop artists, the press, and fans.

I’m a big karaoke junkie and once “I’m So Humble” is available at a karaoke bar, I’ll be singing it. Back in high school, I would over-quote and reference certain comedies, but I haven’t had that experience with a comedy since the first “Hangover” movie. “Popstar” is now one of those comedies. Donk-Da-Donk!

Grade: A-

Letter to my readers 6/1/2016

Hello friends and followers,

My site, donttalkaboutmovies.net, has taken off greatly through wordpress, twitter, and facebook over the last month, and I wanted to sincerely thank everyone for helping me get this far. You guys rock, and I couldn’t have done this without you all! When I approach my 100th post, I want to do something special for you guys. I want you to choose a special review I’ll do! Here are my options below:

  • For those who follow Chris Stuckmann and have seen his Blu-Ray collection videos, I’m willing to show off my collection as well. It would be the first video in years and allow me to talk about several of my favorite movies in one sitting.
  • Another countdown, which would be my top 20 favorite movies of all time. It would be in written format, but I would go in-depth on my favorite movies of all time like I did with my overrated and underrated movie posts.
  • Analysis review. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a while is analyze the themes and message of a film, dissecting it. It would be long and I mean Eugene O’Neil along (Avengers reference), but I would be more than happy to do so.
  • An about me post where you guys all get to ask me questions you want to know about myself or my reviews, and I will answer them (assuming they aren’t hateful, as those will be ignored).

So, what’cha what’cha what’cha want?! Please vote and let me know. You can do so through comments on here, Twitter, or Facebook.

Again guys, I wanted to thank you for keeping me motivated over the last month and I look forward to seeing what you guys have to say. In the meantime, stay tuned for my reviews of all of this summer’s hyped movies, as it’s going to be a busy few months.

In addition, I’ll be posting my half-time report at the end of the month. I’m going to be covering everything I’ve watched so far this year in a rundown, in terms of best movies, most disappointing, and worst. Stay tuned!