Movie Reviews

Comic Relief From Movies!

Does my face twirl the other way in the Southern Hemisphere?

Does my face twirl the other way in the Southern Hemisphere?

Do you love movies? Do you also love sci-fi and fantasy? If not, why are you reading this? If I haven’t lost you by now, then you must be persuadable. Check out my reviews below, no spoilers, I promise. I add one every week there’s a good movie out. Or whenever I get around to it. Just click on the title for the full story. And signup for my news feed (to the right) and never miss a review again (heaven forbid!)


Movie Review: The Hobbit, Battle of Five Armies – Least of the Best?

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Why are little people with Scottish accents so greedy?

Why are little people with Scottish accents so greedy?













Those who go to the latest Hobbit movie may be disappointed. I was. For the first time during any of Peter Jackson’s Tolkien sagas, I was bored. Too many battle scenes (what did I expect from the title?) and too few new monsters. Unlike the Lord of the Rings, this trilogy goes out with a whimper.

BOFA starts where The Desolation of Smaug ends, with the dragon setting Esgaroth (Lake-town) ablaze. Dwarf King Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) watches from the top of the treasure horde of Lonely Mountain. When he sees the dragon killed, Thorin is so consumed by greed that he forgets his promise to share the gold and fortifies the mountain against the town’s survivors. Bilbo (Martin Freeman) tries to stop the ensuing battle, but only the arrival of a goblin army, forces the two sides to fight the common enemy.

In the end, Thorin recovers from his madness to make a last stand and die a hero, but not before telling Bilbo, “If more of us valued home above gold, it would be a merrier world.” Disappointing last words in a movie that doesn’t end, just Peters out.

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Movie Review: Ouija – Let this sleeping dog lie

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"Hey Kids! Wanna chat?"

“Hey Kids! Wanna chat?”













When will first-world teenagers, whose worst exposure to death is Casper the friendly Ghost, learn that it’s not a good idea to summon the deceased? Especially, with a possessed Ouija board? In a creepy house? Once owned by an insane occultist mother? Who killed a demonically possessed child? In the 1950’s. The connections are terrible and you always get a wrong number.

That doesn’t stop Laine Morris (Olivia Cooke), however, from going using the possessed board, in the creepy house to contact her dead sibling. A sister who hung herself from the creepy house’s staircase with Christmas lights in the first scene. We’re left with that age-old horror movie query: What could possibly go wrong?

Laine gathers her friends and the demonic Ouija board for a séance to say goodbye to her sister’s ghost. She instead disturbs a murdered girl with her lips sewn shut and . . . her mother. When Laine’s friends start showing up dead, with their own mouths sown shut, she has to find the girl’s sister to unravel the mystery. Of course, the sister is now an old woman rotting in a mental institution/nursing home, but is sharp enough to tell our heroine, “Find my sister’s mummified corpse, and cut the threads shutting her mouth. She’ll stop momma.”

Of course, Lane doesn’t ask how the sister knows this supernatural ju-jitsu will work, she just knows it’s a horror movie and you need to fix the dead’s funk. If only that worked with the movie itself.


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Movie Review: Dracula Untold, or who knew Vlad the Impaler was such a great guy?

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We could thin down William Shatner!

We could thin down William Shatner!













Did you know that Vlad the Impaler, one of the most notorious sadists in history, was really a great guy? Well, I didn’t until seeing “Dracula Untold” made me wonder how long the noble blood sucking monster fetish would go on.

Dracula starts with the county celebrating ten years of peace and harmony under the benevolent rule of the Impaler (Luke Evans). Turks (bad guys) crash the party and demand 1,000 of the county’s sons, including Vlad’s, as tribute. Bastards! To defend everything sacred, Vlad makes a deal with a cave demon (Charles Dance) to become a monster. Of course, someone with Vlad’s sunny disposition wouldn’t be predisposed to evil. He tells us that when he impales a village on spikes, he’s setting an example, perhaps saving ten others. An act of kindness!

As a badass vampire, Vlad has three days to use bat power to kill the Turkish Sultan (Dominic Cooper). And, if he can resist drinking blood that long, Vlad reverts to being just a run-of-the-mill Impaler.

I actually found Dracula to be a fun movie, in a ‘kill lots of Turks’ kind of way. But the recent, “vampires are just people with long canine teeth,” thing is tired. If you want to explore a character like Vlad’s, show him impaling an entire village on spikes, while he ruminates over how he’s protecting his throne. And, good God, stop having medieval tyrants acting as if they care about their subjects! Not all monsters are good guys behind the fangs.

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Movie Review: Maize Runner, just corny?

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"But I heard there's a run on corn!"

“But I heard there’s a run on corn!”

I’m sorry, but a movie like Maze Runner, where “the mystery” is a big selling point needs to have a plausible explanation. Who built the maze and why put a bunch of kids into it? Instead, Maze Runner gives an absurd answer, and then tells us it’s not true. That the real reason for everything will come in a sequel. Cop out! And I don’t care if the book has all the answers; the movie needs to stand on its own.

Maze Runner starts with Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) waking up without any memory. He’s in an elevator that opens up to a courtyard in the center of a ridiculously massive maze that only a pharaoh, or a Hollywood scifi flick could afford. He is told by the leader Alby (Aml Ameen) that no one there remembers a before time. They all just woke up one day in the elevator. He is also told that only maze runners were permitted to enter the maze that opens every morning and closes every night.

But what hero listens to rules, especially when Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), the first hot chick ever in the maze, suddenly appears in the elevator? Kudos, however, to the film for not wasting time on a teen love story and instead going with lots of action fighting Griever spider monsters in the maze. But action does not replace a plot.

Which brings us to the question of the week. What is the stupidest movie you ever saw that didn’t have any explanation? Tell us your story, and make it funny!

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Movie Review: The Remaining, Christian Leftovers

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Just as my buddy Bill Maher said!

Just as my buddy Bill Maher said!

Before going to The Remaining, I looked it up on Goodreads. What I found was the book by D.J. Molles about surviving a zombie apocalypse. Not quite. The Remaining movie is a Christian apocalypse “I told you so” movie. Heavy with the “we were wrong!” and “I choose God!”

It starts out at the wedding of Dan (Bryan Dechart) and Skylar (Alexa PenaVega) where half the partiers suddenly drop dead. Then all hell breaks loose, with random explosions, planes dropping from the sky, and bolder-sized hail mixed with fire. Taking refuge in a library, Skylar suddenly disappears to find a bible. She knows what this is and she just has to prove it with random fire and brimstone quotes. I wanted zombies!

So, how to survive a Christian apocalypse? Wrong question, you want to die after getting right with God. And not a Catholic, pious plus good deeds, God, or a Mormon, you must sacrifice for redemption, God. No, this is an American conservative middle-class non-denominational God who just requires belief. No forgiveness, just believe and you’re saved. “We have to make a choice,” and “we must have faith,” the two-dimensional characters keep telling us. Never mind that with empirical evidence, demons flying around stinging people and such, it’s hardly faith. Just believe and you can die happy. Q.E.D. But I wanted zombies!

Which brings us to the question of the week. Have you ever gone to the movies expecting one thing and was shocked to find yourself in a different universe? Tell us your story, and make it funny!


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Movie Review: As Above, So Below

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"They've got awfully big gila monsters down here!"

“They’ve got awfully big gila monsters down here!”











As Above, So Below…Keep going down and you’ll end up back on the surface!
As Above, So Below is both a “cave” movie and a supernatural “confront your tragic past” movie. It starts with Scarlett (Perdita Weeks) discovering that the the all powerful philosopher’s stone is in the catacombs under Paris. 13th century quarries where Parisians stashed 6,000,000 corpses in the 18th century means climbing through bone beds! And since this is a necropolis, demons pop up to throw your past in your face. Basterds!
George (Ben Feldman) Scarlet’s Aramaic translator and prickly love interest, reluctantly accompanies her on a one way trip to the netherworld. But, as in Dante’s Inferno, once you get to the creamy center of hell, the only way you can go is up, even when you continue going down. In Journey to the Center of the Earth, they had proof Arne Saknussemm got out, so you can understand the faith they had that if they kept going, they’d reach the surface. But why in this movie, why are they so sure that if they keep descending they’ll end up back on the surface? To get above, go below! It’s so easy when the characters knows what the author needs them to do.
Scarlett finally figures out what really needs to be done when she realizes the philosopher’s stone she grabbed is a fake and she needs the real one to save George. Scarlett puts back the fake and sees her reflection in a mirror. She is the philosopher’s stone! She runs back to George, embracing and apologizing to her father’s corpse along the way, and heals George with her bare hands. One simple jump into a bottomless pit later, and they emerge through a manhole cover onto the streets of Paris. Q.E.D.

Which brings us to the question of the week. What is your favorite movie where the character realizes they are the power and not the talisman?

Into The Storm – Teenaged Angst in a teapot

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    All disaster movies face the question: How to make people care about your disposable characters when the audience came to see them killed? The cheep answer is an angst, childhood (they don’t love me), teenage (I don’t get enough attention), young adult (I need a squeeze), middle-aged (why do the kids complain so much about attention?) or senior (getting old sucks!) The producers of Into The Storm took a look at their demographics and viola, teenage angst!
    Into The Storm starts with two teenage boys whose widowed father woks too hard to provide enough attention. They spend all movie carrying around a camera documenting everything for a time capsule – even though the movie is not shot in POV style. It also follows a storm chaser a mom who calls her kid every 2 hours to say, “I’ll be home as soon as I can.” Yawn. All we care about is the storm, an Oklahoman tornado of cinematic proportions, with lots of scenes of houses being torn up and people getting sucked into vortexes, even a fire funnel! But no Dorothy or Aunty Em. Guess we aren’t in Kansas, after all.
    Which brings us to our question of the week: If Dorothy’s house had landed in the Shire instead of Munchkin Country, and squashed Gandalf instead of the wicked witch of the east, would Galadriel have been as nice to her as Glenda, the good witch of the North?

Hercules. The Rock as Demigod

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    What to do with an aging ex-wrestler with sub-minimal acting skills? It’s either the Hulk or Hercules. But first, they dropped the stage name and went with Dwayne Johnson – which means we can expect a lot more movies out of this guy.
    I had expected (and hoped) for hero vs. monsters but all the adds were actually illustrations of stories told by his nephew, Iolaus (Reece Ritchie). Instead, the movie tries to be realistic, showing humans behind the myths as a mercenary Hercules leads a band of non-Argonauts in training a bunch of farmers into an army. I liked the attempt at authentic ancient combat. A well trained small force led by Hercules employes formation fighting to slaughter a large horde. A welcome change from the hero and his pals killing everyone in a melee free for all.
    At first this Hercules appears to be the tragically flawed character of the myth, with early scenes of him murdering his family. But The Rock, excuse me, “Dwayne” doesn’t do tragically flawed heroes and it’s no spoiler to say it turns out he was framed.
    However, Hercules had better acting from the Rock than I expected and strong performances from Ian McShane as the comic/mystic side-kick Amphiaraus and John Hurt as the sneeky-evil Lord Cotys. But I wanted monsters. Hercules, unlike The 300, which had monsters, is a myth. Where were my monsters?!   
    Which brings us to our question of the week: Would you go see The Hobbit if Smaug was made of paper mache?

Lucy, deep dreck?

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    When watching movie like Godzilla, you don’t ask, “Why are tank rounds bouncing off a reptile?” or, “How can an insect be a big as Mothra and fly?” But, a movie that tries to blow your mind with its thought provoking story shouldn’t peddle the tired old myth that humans only use 10% of their brain. Or that unlocking the rest would give us supernatural powers.
    Lucy starts with Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) being tricked by her boyfriend into delivering a mysterious briefcase to “Mr.” Jang (Min-sik Choi), a drug dealing gangster. Tip: Girls, if your boyfriend wears a straw hat, don’t let him handcuff you to his luggage. Jang cuts Lucy’s belly and puts in a package from the briefcase to smuggle it out of the country. Unfortunately (?) for Lucy, the bag breaks open and the drug sends her into a seizure-like state where she defies gravity and twitchs on the ceiling. All the while, Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) is giving a lecture somewhere explaining whats happening.
    He tells us that when we get access to more of our brain, “Interesting thing begin to happen.” I’d say! At 20% you begin to control your body. At 30% you can control others, and at 40% you can control objects. telepathy and telekinesis, child’s play for any brainiac.
    The acting in Lucy is excellent and the effects very cool. Plus, Lucy doesn’t use her power for a revenge binge or to conquer the world, ala Jonny Deep in Transcendence. Why would someone smart enough to see through petty emotions, become consumed by power lust?

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Twilight of the franchise?

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    Not being an apeofile, I wasn’t expecting much. But could it be as ground breaking as the original Planet of the Apes, with a Charlton Heston-like swagger? Nope. As nihilistic as Beneath the Planet of the Apes, with its bomb worshiping baldies? Not in 2014! As ridiculous as Escape from the Planet of the Apes, where a time traveling Roddy McDowall was the toast of the Nahru jacket wearing NYC Metrosexuals? God no, it was a remake of the worst idea of the original series, the epically bad, and 27-year series coma inducing Battle for Planet of the Apes. I guess I should be glad it was not a remake of one of the TV shows (there were two)!
    The plot line is the same as Battle. Evil, rapacious Humans want the good old days. Before we were brought low by the Simian virus, named after the Apes that were used in the experiments. (Side note: When will these movie scientists stop brewing up apocalypse viruses in their “labs?”) We want power, literally electricity, and the “good guy,” Malcolm (Jason Clarke) with his team, looking to repair a hydro dam stumbles across Caesar (Andy Serkis) and the gang. Caesar, a peacenik, allows them to leave even after they’ve wounded an Ape teenager. But they still need to power their iPads! So, Malcolm goes back to beg Caesar to let them repair the dam. He lets them, but this angers the evil Koba (Toby Kebbell) who, tortured by humans, wants war. And war he shall have! Scenes of apes, ridding horses and shooting machine guns, are too good for Hollywood to pass up.
    So, why wasn’t this YOUR favorite, dystopian, post apocalypse, sci-fi movie this summer?