“Pride & Prejudice & Zombies”

With a title like “Pride & Prejudice & Zombies”, you ought to know better than to take a movie like that seriously! It’s ridiculous and fun, but sometimes that’s all that matters.

A zombie plague has taken over 19th century England and Elizabeth Bennett (Lily James) and her sisters are all trained for zombie slaying by their no nonsense father (Charles Dance). Elizabeth forms an unlikely romance with fellow zombie hunter Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley) and the two discover a plot that can trigger the apocalypse. While the fight their feelings for each other, they fight the zombies invading England more-so.

“Pride & Prejudice & Zombies” embraces genre cliches, iconic moments from Jane Austen’s novel “Pride & Prejudice”, and its numerous adaptations, including parodying Colin Firth’s white shirt-swimming scene from the BBC mini series. This isn’t just a spoof, but it also has a surprising amount of panache.

Between innovative POV zombie shots, a pop-up image-illustrated opening credits sequence, and some effective uses of shadows and fog, “Pride & Prejudice & Zombies” can almost pass as a serious period horror film. It’s evenly balanced with ridiculous moments including a sensual martial arts fight, subplots involving a clumsy and antagonistic love interest (Matt Smith), and the Four Horsemen.

The cast all does fine work and both James and Riley have great chemistry, managing to balance out even levels of absurdity and drama in their performances. The real stand out though is Smith. He’s a naturally clumsy person off camera and this makes his performance as Mr. Collins more enjoyable.

How can you criticize a movie that’s already this ridiculous? Well, there are a few subplots that aren’t well developed and slow the movie down at times. There are also a few too many characters that come and go throughout the movie, making us wonder their purpose. But once we get to the zombie battles, it’s back in full form.

I saw “Pride & Prejudice & Zombies” at a sneak preview, and I’d suggest checking it out at a five-dollar Tuesday theater when it’s released.

Grade: B-

“The Revenant”

I’m disappointed that Alejandro Inarritu’s (“Birdman”) “The Revenant” wasn’t released before 2015 ended. Why? Because this would have easily made my top 10 list of the year!

Leonardo DiCaprio stars as legendary frontier man, Hugh Glass. Glass was the survivor of a vicious bear attack and left for dead by his men, but he survived and tracked his former comrades down for revenge. The frontier member he wanted the most retribution against was the scarred John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), a self-aware psychopath who murdered Glass’s son in cold blood.

SPOILER ALERT

This is more of a fictionalized take on the events and we watch Glass suffer through grisly wounds, ride a horse off a cliff, slide uncontrollably down a stream, evade a vengeful Arikara tribe, and eventually engage in a gory knife fight with Fitzgerald.

“The Revenant” is an epic, beautiful, and overwhelmingly intense adventure that contains elements of some of the best blockbuster movies like “Gladiator” and some more artistic period films like “There Will Be Blood”. Every shot in this movie is filled with great attention to detail.

DiCaprio gives his most expressive and quiet performance to date, acting with painful expressions. There were reports of him suffering through this shoot and we can almost see his pain in his performance. Tom Hardy is just as good, sometimes stealing Leo’s thunder as the philosophical villain.

“The Revenant” is quite different from “Birdman”, due to the lack of dialogue, the setting, and dark tone, but it’s still just as energetic and as much of a great experience. It’s loaded with long takes that occur during a harrowing battle sequence and an unforgettably violent bear attack.

The violence and heavy handed dream sequences might turn some viewers off, but this is a movie I’d strongly suggest all film lovers to give a shot.

Grade: A

The Worst Movies of 2015

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It’s that time again… Reluctantly speaking… Time to share the crappiest, worst movies of the year, so none of you have to see them! If you skipped them in theaters, good!

10) The Loft – I’ll admit I’m a sucker for erotic thrillers (see my Knock, Knock review), but there’s nothing erotic about The Loft. Five guys rent a private loft to have extramarital affairs? One rapes prostitutes? One has feelings objectifies a prostitute? One films his friends’ affairs as a fetish? All of this is gross and none of it works.

9) Chappie – Another movie that shows Neill Blomkamp (District 9) is a one-trick pony. Chappie makes us sit through an unintentionally funny ultra-violent tale where we have to root for a gun-toting engineer who gets away with threatening his coworkers in the office, another engineer with a god complex, an overly childlike robot, and Die Antwoord. The worst part of Chappie is it’s nothing but a two-hour Die Antwoord music video.

8) Taken 3 – The silliest and most soap opera-y installment in the franchise and it’s just as lazily directed as Taken 2. We clearly didn’t need a second Taken and we sure as hell didn’t need a third one.

7) The Gunman – I couldn’t put my anger over “buying” a Redbox copy aside thanks to Sean Penn’s half-assed action sequences and overkill on shirtless scenes. What’s even more sinful is casting Idris Elba in a very pointless role and Javier Bardem in a very hilariously melodramatic character who dies after 45 minutes of onscreen time.

6) Unfinished Business – Unfinished Business screams poor taste by picking on the mentally disabled, homosexuals, disabled veterans, and glorifying infidelity while trying to make us sympathize with three unlikable morons. Further insult to injury is added due to its uneven balance of mean-spirited humor and attempt at being inspirational with Vince Vaughn’s bro-ish logic.

5) Jupiter Ascending – It’s sad knowing that the creators of The Matrix have fallen. They had some interesting ideas, but they’re lost in a frenetic, plot hole-fueled epic that features the year’s worst performance (an embarrassing Eddie Redmayne).

4) Lost River – Did you guys know that Ryan Gosling tried to make a surreal noir film reminiscent of David Lynch and Nicolas Rending Refn? It’s just an expression of Gosling’s weird fetishes that will make you shrug your shoulders in the end.

3) Fifty Shades of Grey – It would be a waste of breath and finger strength to type out fifty reasons why you know this is a piece of crap.

2) The Green Inferno – Eli Roth is officially the Michael Bay of horror movies in this poop-stained, weed-drenched, idiotic, pretentious, anticlimactic gorefest. Not only couldn’t Roth execute his promising artistic pitch, but he couldn’t even gross me out effectively. Also, if you start to see the cast’s twitter addresses in the closing credits of movies from here on, you can thank Roth for the tacky product placement.

1) Fant4stic (Fantastic Four) – This movie makes me sad every time I think this was the worst movie of 2015. There was such potential with Josh Trank’s (Chronicle) vision and cast. Well, I’ll give this to Fox – they did a great job in the trailers covering up the movie’s messy effects, poor pacing, wooden acting, rushed narrative, and lack of personality.

That’s it for 2015, thanks for reading! What were your picks for the worst movies of 2015? You can share in your comments below!

“Spotlight”

“It’s not just sexual abuse, it’s also spiritual abuse,” a sexual assault survivor tells the Spotlight news team (Michael Keaton, Rachel MacAdams, Mark Ruffalo, & Brian d’Arcy James). This is one of many key lines in “Spotlight” that make it one of the year’s very best films.

It’s 2003 and the Boston Globe has a new editor-in-chief, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber). An outsider for cultural reasons, he appoints his investigative Spotlight news team led by Robby Robinson (Keaton) to investigate child molestation accusations against the Catholic church. This stirs up personal and societal tensions as Robinson and his team dig deeper into a shocking story bigger than any other story.

Each member of the team has something at risk in writing this story. Robinson’s friendships with several attorneys and detectives become strained. Mark Rezendes (Ruffalo) questions his own religion. Sacha Pfeiffer (MacAdams)  knows her relationships with her priest brother and religious grandmother will be damaged. Matt Carroll (d’Arcy James) discovers a confirmed sex offender priest lives around the corner from his house, but can’t take action until after the story prints.

These conflicts depicted in “Spotlight” are what drive the film into being one hell of a character piece. Brilliant, terrific, important, powerful, and fascinating are just understatements here.

Director Tom McCarthy (“The Station Agent”) uses subtlety to build up tension with background shots of churches during interviews and crosses featured in interview scenes, giving us the impression the Church is watching our heroes. Further emphasis is made as attorney Mitchell Garabedian (Stanley Tucci) reluctantly aids the team, stating the Church is watching him.

Keaton, Tucci, Schreiber, MacAdams, and d’Arcy James all deliver career-defining performances, but Ruffalo steals every scene as the socially withdrawn Rezendes. He’s a loner in the midst of a divorce who becomes increasingly emotional as he gets further invested in the story. I don’t like to say things like this, but Ruffalo deserves an Oscar for his performance.

“Spotlight” is likely the most serious award contender this season, and I strongly urge everyone to give this movie a chance.

Grade: A+

 

“Terminator Genisys”

Well, I guess all I can say about “Terminator Genisys” is thank god Arnold Schwarzenegger is back!

“Terminator Genisys” is part sequel, prequel, remake, and reboot of the “Terminator” franchise, featuring a new timeline. The talented Jason Clarke (“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” (2014)) is now the fifth actor to play John Connor and the film begins with him defeating Skynet. However, he still needs to send Kyle Reese (played by a very whiny Jai Courtney) back to 1984 to protect Sarah Connor (now played by Emilia Clarke of “Game of Thrones” fame). When Reese arrives, he discovers that Sarah is now the strong warrior she’ll later become in “T2” (1991) and she has a T800 (Schwarzenegger) nicknamed “Pops” by her side. They assemble Reese to change the future, but Reese discovers there’s a potential new result of Judgment Day in 2017 instead of 1997 (the date of Judgment Day in “T2”).

You know? I didn’t like “Terminator Genisys”. It’s not a bad movie, but like “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” (2003) and “Terminator Salvation” (2009), it wasn’t needed. “Genisys” isn’t redundant stupidity like “T3” or uninspired like “Salvation”, but it suffers due to poor casting choices and unnecessary complications.

NO SPOILERS, GUYS!

Jai Courtney is unbearable as Kyle Reese, delivering an uninspired and clueless performance; he clearly went into this movie without researching Kyle Reese or Michael Biehn’s portrayal of him. Jason Clarke is a solid actor, he gives a very mixed performance as John. He overdoes the cliched philosophical warrior in the first half of the movie before going bonkers in the second half. Emilia Clarke is good as Sarah Connor, but she doesn’t have any chemistry with any of the other cast members here. Not sure if it’s her fault or not.

Remember when I said it’s complicated? I’m not kidding. “Terminator Genisys” tries the “X-Men: Days of Future Past” (2014) play by erasing the flaws with a new timeline and misfires! The new timeline is incredibly confusing and features a very unnecessary and bizarre remake of “The Terminator’s” (1984) opening ten minutes, a theory that time travel can create memories of your unforeseen future, and an unresolved subplot involving Matt Smith (“Doctor Who”).

I can forgive some of these flaws due to Schwarzenegger giving the Terminator a touch of protective father and badass old man. He also remains incredibly funny throughout a majority of the film, which was refreshing. Speaking of funny, the wonderful JK Simmons kills it as a bumbling detective caught in the middle of the plot.

The action and visual effects are exciting, as well, though will never compare to “T2’s” epic action sequences. I mean, if you’re a fan of the “Terminator” franchise, you might be entertained, but ultimately, it’s another missed opportunity.

Grade: C-