Geek For E!

“Gods of Egypt” is a godawful, glorious mess

gods of egyptNutshell: Can something be awful and amazing at the same time?  Well, Gods of Egypt is certainly giving it its best shot.  With crazy action scenes, a nutso plot, and CGI that feels like the SyFy channel and 1999’s The Mummy had a lovechild of doom, this film tries for Glorious Epic and comes off 50s Throwback.  And I haven’t even started on my #GodsSoWhite rant yet.  Bumping this up half a grade for its sheer balls, and for Geoffrey Rush’s weird fishtail braid.  Grade: C-

“Oh, bother.”

Nope, that quote above isn’t from Winnie the Pooh.  Well okay, it is.  But it’s also here in Gods of Egypt.  And not only is it spoken by one of the “Gods”, it’s probably what every member of the cast and crew thought to themselves once the reality of this movie really set in.  But hey, everyone’s got a mortgage that needs to be paid, amirite?

Director Alex Proyas seems determined to complete the downward spiral he’s started after his work on 1994’s brilliant Brandon Lee superhero flick The CrowI, Robot, Knowing, and now this…movie.  Gods of Egypt is like the world’s craziest D&D campaign run amok, where the DM has taken the rule book, the mythos for the world, and any semblance of coherence, and chucked ’em all out the window.  But if you’re ready to settle in — after a few beers or better yet, several shots of the strongest liquor in your cabinet (something white, to set the mood) — I’ll dig a bit deeper so you know what you’ll be getting yourself into.

[Read more…]

“Race” shows the man and the times behind the legend

race onesheetWe all know Jesse Owens; he’s the runner we all hear about in sophomore year high school American history class.  The guy that went to the Berlin Olympics in 1936 and showed Hitler that the idea of an Übermensch needed to be retooled a little.  A lot.  But filmgoers get a bigger picture of Owens in Race, a film that takes Jesse Owens and his considerable talent, and puts him into his time, complete with bigotry, politics and the spectacle of the Olympic Games.

Director Stephen Hopkins (House of Lies, and one of my favorite Tales From the Crypt episodes, “Abra Cadaver”*) balances all of this beautifully.  What could have been a by-the-numbers history lesson or a pedestal-buffing hosana to a legendary athlete, instead is a compelling story of one man’s struggle to find himself amid the slings and arrows of his times. [Read more…]

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi – Bay delivers the boom and bitterness of battle

13 hours“You can’t put a price on being able to live with yourself.”

If anyone has ever fist-pumped about a Michael Bay film, it’s this gal right here.  Let’s face it; Michael Bay Go Boom.  And it’s glorious.  Except when it’s heartbreaking too.  In 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (that I’m shortening to 13 Hours for this review because c’mon now) Bay and his cast dig deep, giving moviegoers not only the pomp and circumstance of war, but the pain, fear and uncertainty that goes along with all the ooh-rah.

For me, I’d only really heard about Benghazi in the news, usually when the city’s name was tossed like a grenade into some sort of political debate.  So for everyone else who needs a bit of a refresher?  On September 11th, 2012, a United States diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked by Islamic militants, killing a United States Ambassador and a member of his staff.  Hours later, the militants attacked a CIA compound approximately a mile away from the first attack, killing two United States government contractors serving as the CIA’s Global Response Staff  (GRS).  13 Hours follows the story of the six GRS members — former US military — on the weeks before, and all through, the attacks. [Read more…]

“Concussion”: powerful, but not particularly hard-hitting


Nutshell: If anyone walks away from Concussion without grieving for those who suffered/are suffering from CTE?  They’re dead inside.  Amazing performances by actors playing affected football players (most especially David Morse as Mike Webster) bring this issue straight into the feel center of the brain.  The rest of the movie is too light a touch, possibly because it tries to cover CTE, Omalu’s love story with his now wife, and the Big Bad that is the business of sport.  Still, this film takes the real-life subject matter and makes it easy to understand, and Smith’s performance is genuine, if not a bit too heroic. Grade: B-

“I’m just asking back what I gave….Help me.”

I have to admit I’ve made my share of “bell-rung jock” jokes in my life.  Y’know, the whole “he’s barely coherent, look at him — one too many tackles” kinda jabs.  Ha ha funny, right?  Sure.  When it’s simply a jest at the expense of musclebound moneybags who are laughing all the way to the bank, with not a care in the world beyond a bone or muscle injury that could sideline them. [Read more…]

TwitView: Joy


An interesting premise that stalls upon execution.  Saved from complete dreck by Lawrence’s amazing performance.  Grade: C-

Just when you thought David O. Russell was getting better and better?  He delivers Joy, a film that proves you can take an interesting true story and turn it into a wobbly, scattered  mess.  Based on the real-life entrepreneur  Joy Mangano, the creator of the Miracle Mop, Huggable Hangers, and a slew of stuff you never knew you desperately needed ’til you saw them.  (Note: I am a Mangano gal that has nothing but HSN Huggables in all my closets.  What?  They were a bargain, the one-color look make my closets seem organized, and they’re fuzzy.) [Read more…]

TwitView: Sisters

sisters onsheetIn Sisters, Fey and Poehler show that just because you’ve got a few decades (or more) under your belt, you’re not necessarily a grown-up.  And while that could be a downer of a storyline, they keep it light and focus on the bonds you keep and the ones you’ve broken along the way.

A goofy, borderline tacky, gloriously out-there screenplay by Paula Pell turns Sisters into a glorious mash of The Big Chill, Superbad and every “this one goes to 11” house party you ever went to.  Add the light Pitch Perfect touch of director Jason Moore, and Sisters becomes Generation X slapstick in all its raunchy glory.

Poehler (Maura; kinda strange but kindhearted) and Fey (Kate; kinda slutty but fiercely loyal) riff off each other like you’d expect them to.  But they’ve surrounded themselves with other talented comedians, including Maya Rudolph (the girl who was never invited to anything), Rachel Dratch (the woman who has food as her FB profile pic), Samantha Bee (the wild child who settled down…kinda), Bobby Moynihan (the one with all the stupid, stupid jokes) and John Leguizamo (the big mistake guy who keeps hoping for a comeback.)  Ike Barinholtz (The Mindy Project) plays Maura’s love interest with equal parts sweetness and serious comedic chops.  But he’s a MadTV alum, so that’s kind of a given.  Speaking of comedic chops being kind of a given, Kate McKinnon plays Sam, a fellow alum and Ellis Island house party regular from back in the day.  Even the lines McKinnon downplays are a hoot — man am I glad this woman is getting the recognition she so rightly deserves.

But what works best here are the truths Fey and Poehler show us.  Parents of grown-ups can get sick and tired of their failing-at-adulting kids.  Children of fully grown but still infantile adults are saddled with more maturity than they want, or can handle.  Parties for folks over 40 are all about getting a babysitter, talking about health stuff, and putting your damn feet up.  But when it comes right down to it, everyone wants just one more shot at Party Time.  When that happens, Sisters shows us that friendships can be mended, love connections made, and maybe even a little bit of growing up can make the scene…but cleanup the next day is gonna be hor-ren-dous.

Movie Review: The Last Witch Hunter

The Last Witch HunterGorgeously detailed set design, a fascinating mythology of witches & the “Axe and Hammer” society tasked with keeping them from harming humans, and action sequences that are messy but cool as [Radio Edit] breathe life into The Last Witch Hunter.  Diesel does a great job doing the same basic character he’s done in F&F and Riddick, and his ennui-cum-world-weary demeanor works perfectly here.  Pity a 180 degree, out-of-nowhere switcheroo in one character’s arc whole being throws a wrench into the works at the climax.

Is the plot a huge mess that throws a cool new mythos at you in the hope that you’ll forgive the fact that this film is nothing more than “man kicks butt amongst all the CGI”?  Abso-witchin’-lutely.  Then again if you’re coming to see a movie about a witch hunter that does nothing but kick butt and you expect coherence?  Baby, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

The Last Witch Hunter feels like the start of a series, and if it does even so-so box office I’m betting that’s exactly what’ll happen.  Which is fine, because the trio of Disel’s Witch Hunter Kaulder, witch-with-a-heart-o-gold Chloe (Rose Leslie, Game of Thrones) and Kaulder’s Catholic Church babysitter-cum-biographer Dolan is a cool gang to watch.  Though I’m hoping Leslie will get to say “YOU KNOW NOTHING KAULDER” at some point in the inevitable sequel.  BTW, folks hoping for more of Leslie’s awesome Ygritte-styled throwdowns will be disappointed here; Leslie’s witch Chloe is a bartender, not a fighter.  Y’know, unless you really push her.  tl;dr: don’t expect bows and arrows here.

A blast of a horror/action film that’s perfect for Halloween, even if I did get incredibly peeved at the strange lack of character consistency at one point.  Here’s hoping that if they pull another “Gotcha!” moment with a sequel, that they actually leave some mystery to a character that will allow such a shift to be believable.  But this time, go for Diesel whoopin’ seriously evil witch tuchas.

Grade: B-

Movie Review: Freeheld

freeheld onesheetNutshell: a story about two quiet people who had to stand up for their rights doesn’t have to be this quiet.  In searching for the heart of this story, the filmmakers lost its soul.  Grade: C

I wasn’t sure what I thought of Freeheld after I saw it.  I wasn’t sure a week later. I’m a card-carrying hippie commie pinko; shouldn’t I be falling all over myself to worship a film that’s brave enough to tackle the story of a woman and her domestic partner fighting the system for equal rights?

It’s a quiet film.  But does a film have to shout to get its message across?  It doesn’t dig too deeply into the personal lives of the real-life folks these characters are based on.  But does a film need to uncover everything in order to be true to that person?

Well, a film doesn’t need to shout to get itself heard. And it doesn’t have to delve into every painful, agonizing moment to paint a full and accurate representation onscreen.  However, it does need to go beyond the surface of the people in the story, and the message needs to be more than “hey, d’ja hear about this?”  Freeheld has a powerful, uplifting true story at its heart.  It’s got amazing actors, and a screenwriter (Ron Nyswaner, Philadelphia) that knows how to deliver the biopic goods.

But the film doesn’t rise to its potential.  Instead, Freeheld simply shows you images of a life lived, and people who lived it.  It pulls heartstrings shamelessly, without giving you a feeling for the people living the story.  Did I tear up a time or two during this film?  Absolutely; you’d have to be dead inside not to.   But this film feels like the echo of a story, rather than the story itself.  The lives of Laurel Hester and Stacie Andree as they fought for Hester’s ability to pass her pension on to her partner Andree were filled with pain, hopelessness and ultimately triumph.  But Freeheld doesn’t go beyond the typical Lifetime movie treatment.

From what I’ve pieced together from the film, these women were intensely private people.  They lived normal lives, had a dog, a cute house the fixed up, and a very strong love for each other.  But you’ll have to piece together everything about these women beyond what set design and art direction can tell you.  Hester’s battle with cancer is shown in pieces, and these pieces are heartbreaking.  But they’re just pieces.  Julianne Moore’s Hester is trotted out now and again to show that yes, cancer is horrible.  Ellen Page’s Andree is shown working as a mechanic, as if that’s the only way to show that Andree is her own person as well as Hester’s partner.  Even Steve Carell’s larger-than-life flamboyantly alive attorney Steven Goldstein feels muted.  It’s as if someone grabbed the soft focus from Barbara Walters’ interviews and used it on this story.  Everything here feels distant.

The only bits of clarity comes from two of the supporting players, Michael Shannon as Hester’s partner Dane Wells, and Luke Grimes as fellow officer Todd Belkin.  Shannon does an excellent job hinting at feelings Wells might have had for Hester, while supporting her and her partner through the legal battle.  And as closeted cop Belkin, Grimes manages to put more feeling into his brief moments onscreen than Page and Moore are allowed to show in the entire film.  Because really, it’s not the issue that Page and Moore can’t emote — watch Juno and Still Alice — it’s that their performances feel hemmed in, scrubbed clean of true depth.  And that I lay at the feet of director Peter Sollett.

Fellow pinkos, head out to Freeheld if you’re really jonesing to get your LBGT civil rights happy nice time on. But you can also just sit tight and wait for Stonewall, which hits later this year.  That works too.

Awards Season Watch: the beautiful closing credits song by Miley Cyrus, “Hands of Love”, is sure to be nominated for Best Song this year.  As the credits rolled I was picturing the performance.  I’m betting on lots of flowing white fabric.  Or disco teddy bears.  Maybe both.


Movie Review: Crimson Peak

crimson peak onesheetCrimson Peak would probably have been a much more effective film if it hadn’t telegraphed it’s ghost reveals so early into the story. I’ll say that right now.  Most of the chills I expected to experience were watered down by my knowing exactly why the ghosts were there, and what they wanted.

But there’s some serious awesome here to take your mind off waiting for the climax.  The dripping, oozing gothic mansion is a dastardly delight.  Speaking of, Hiddleston, Chastain, Wasikowska and Hunnam all have solid careers in the gothic genre if their star-power careers ever bore them.  Bonus points for casting Supernatural’s Jim “Bobby” Beaver as “Mr. Cushing”.  That’s so cool on so many levels.

Peak is definitely overkill, from the hyper-stylized costumes to the hammy yet still engagingly creepy performances.  And riffs on The Shining, Jane Eyre, The Haunting and many other classics sometimes feel a bit too obvious.  Still, for all it’s bombastic excess, Crimson Peak manages to deliver a creepy good time, with director  Guillermo del Toro spinning a Hammer films-like Gothic with a 21st Century heart.  Good, bloody, chilling fun, and a perfect Halloween haunted house.  Grade: B