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Category: Movie Reviews

MOVIE REVIEW: Bad Boys for Life

Vitals

Release Date: 17 January 2020 (USA)
Studio: Sony Pictures
Official Site: https://www.badboysforlife.movie/
Directors: Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah
Writers: Chris Bremner, Peter Craig
Rating: R
Running Time: 2h 4min
Starring: Will Smith, Alexander Ludwig, Vanessa Hudgens
Genre: Action, Comedy, Buddy Cop
Base Score: 3.5 (All Right)

Review

“Bad Boys” is the theme of the television series, Cops. Way back in 1995, the original “Bad Boys” movie was cool. They were two cops. Cool. They were also “Bad Boys”. Cool. That was the era when buddy cops colored a little bit outside the line. You couldn’t throw a stick in the 80’s and 90’s without hitting a few “bad boy” cops.

That was before the comedy “Hot Fuzz” with Simon Pegg kind of broke all of the stereotypes of the “buddy cop” movie. In an age of sensitivity, we kinda want our cops to follow the rules. Will Smith is getting older. So is the “tough cop” motif.

We know that cars don’t randomly blow up when they crash or get shot up. We know that when people don’t follow the rules, people get fired. We know that when police don’t follow orders, court cases get thrown out and perps are back on the streets.

All of these things are now a distraction when you see them on the big screen. They pull me out of the story as I say, “Really?”

And then there’s the really confusing bit. They sing the “Bad Boys” song in the movie. So… does that mean that this universe also has the show “Cops?” That’s what everybody knows it from, right? When the first “Bad Boys” movie came out, it was kind of a nudge-nudge kind of thing. Here were two cops that were also bad boys. Now they’re singing it? Were they also known as bad boys? Did they just think it was a catchy song? If that were the case, they could have picked a different song.

It’s just confusing, which also pulled me out of the film.

It’s an action movie in the vein of all buddy cops movies from the 80’s and 90’s… just 30 years later. If you like that sort of thing.

On a very personal note, I was disappointed that the Martin Lawrence character and his promise to God. No spoilers, though. I didn’t like the way the whole movie handled God and morality. But that is personal. Other Christians might pick it up, as well.

Modifiers

Is it worth 3D, IMAX, or any other special viewing? A lot of stuff blows up and there’s a lot of explosions. That might be fun to see on a bigger screen. Maybe.
Would I see it again? Nah.
Should I rent it? Buy it? Feel free and skip for six months or so. Rent it on Redbox. It would be an entertaining popcorn night.
Is it family safe? The language is rough. They are trying to be “bad boys” and they talk like it. The language feels a bit forced. I don’t wanna be a Steve Rogers, or anything. No sex is shown. It is just mentioned. Women dress provocatively.
Did it have “the look?” It was definitely pretty, but that’s just because it was shot in Miami, not because the filmmakers did anything besides choose the location. They could have picked any beautiful place in the world. No bonus.
Did it have “the feels?” Nope. It was just an action buddy cop movie.

MOVIE REVIEW: 1917

Score

4: Pretty Good

Summary

Interesting gimmick, but just another war movie

Vitals

Release Date: 10 January 2020 (USA)
Studio: Universal
Official Site: https://www.1917.movie/
Director: Sam Mendes
Writers: Sam Mendes & Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Rating: R
Running Time: 1h 59min
Starring: Dean-Charles Chapman, George MacKay, Daniel Mays
Genre: War Drama
Base Score: 3.5 (meh)

Review

I’m not a huge fan of war movies. That’s my dad. War just seems like a horrible waste to me. The more realistic it is, the more it’s just… sad. Yeah, WW1 was horrible. Yes, those men sacrificed a lot. I’m not saying that. I’m saying that the world would be a better place if those men were still in it.

That’s all I’m saying.

I was going to pass on this movie altogether until I saw the gimmick. This entire movie was shot using one take. I know enough about filmmaking to know that this would be a huge undertaking. I had to see them pull it off.

And… they pulled it off. I saw a couple points in the movie where they could have made some creative cuts, but if they said it was all one take, I believe them. Somebody wise said, “Never Google an interesting fact.”

It was a technical achievement, for sure. My favorite was when one character is mortally wounded off-screen. As he dies, his face is visibly pale. In order to pull that off, makeup artists would have had to rush in while the camera was panned away. Really good job, filmmakers!

But then, about halfway through, you forgot about the amazing feat they were pulling off. The gimmick faded away and it was just a gritty, realistic war movie. I don’t much care for gritty, realistic war movies. I don’t care how good your giggles are.

I was interested, but it was still very, very sad. War is pointless.

Modifiers

Is it worth 3D, IMAX, or any other special viewing? If I were filthy rich or a fan of war movies, I might spring for a special screen. It would magnify the intensity of the one-shot gimmick. How did they do that?

Would I see it again? I might see it if somebody else wanted to. I would be focusing on the technical aspect of the filming. I wouldn’t see it again because I wanted to see another war movie.

Should I rent it? Buy it? See it once on the big screen. If you are a big fan of war movies (here’s one for you, Dad), I would buy a copy. That way you can show it to other war-fans and marvel at the technical achievement.

Is it family safe? Besides being realistic war violence, the movie is pretty tame. If you are OK letting your kids see war, you will be OK here. There is some adult language (they’re soldiers), but it’s not “rapper heavy.” I wouldn’t exactly call it “family safe” but it’s not “family unsafe.” Can we call it a “family meh?”

Did it have “the look?” (+.5) Super technical achievement. I hope it wins all the awards.

Did it have “the feels?” It was just sad. War is sad. Somewhere a panda is crying.

MOVIE REVIEW: Like a Boss

Score

2.5: Pretty Bad

Summary

A not-funny comedy. Skip it.

Vitals

Release Date: 10 January 2020
Studio: Paramount
Official Site:
http://likeabossmovie.com/
Director: Miguel Arteta
Writers: Sam Pitman, Adam Cole-Kelly
Rating: R
Running Time: 1h 23min
Starring: Salma Hayek, Rose Byrne, Tiffany Haddish
Genre: Comedy

Review

 Base Score: 2 (pretty bad)

I didn’t go into this movie with high expectations. It didn’t disappoint (because I was expecting it to be bad. It wasn’t bad as much as not good. I would have given it a base score of 3 (meh) but the movie had some actual problems.

I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start over.

Come see this movie and you could win a trip to Atlanta! Huh? First off, why are you trying to bribe me to see this movie? Is it that bad? Secondly… Atlanta? Is every other city bombed out? Did California and New York get consumed by fire? I don’t watch the news, so I’m not up-to-date on our Trumptastic Nation. Let me go check. Nope. They’re both still there. So let me go back to my second question.

Atlanta?

All right. I’ve done some research (on the Googles) and it looks like they are doing another promotion with a free trip to New York. Ok, ok. I retreat to my first question: “Why are you trying to bribe me to see this movie with a free trip?” And now there’s another question. Why did my area get tempted with a free trip to Atlanta and not New York? Was Disneyland even on the table? Maybe some place in Death Valley?

Ok, so you might have figured it out from review so far. I’d much rather talk about something other than the movie. That’s just how good it was.

Let’s dive right into the problems with the movie. Let’s look at the things that make you go, “Hmmmm.”

Two friends start a company. They have a half-million dollars in debt. They are in danger of closing. An investor wants to bail them out, and they ask for 51% of the company. That seems like a classic “Shark Tank” kind of move. You messed up your finances. You’re being offered a second chance. Why is this businesswoman (Selma Hayek) being portrayed as a less-than-nice person?

She backs down to 49%, on the grounds that the friends stay together. If they have a falling out, she get 51% again. So you know what is going to happen next. And we know the motivation of our angel investor.

I won’t spoil any of the rest of it, but that’s not the only time I cocked my head to the side. I said under my breath, “Yes, that’s how business works.”

The movie was also needlessly sexualized. Were they trying to be “cool” or “gritty?” The jokes certainly weren’t funny, sexual or not. That’s not entirely fair. I chuckled twice. The other guy in the theater chuckled four times. The two women in the theater did not laugh any times, that I heard. For those of you counting, the movie was attended by four of us.

Modifiers

Is it worth 3D, IMAX, or any other special viewing? Please don’t waste your money on a special screening. I don’t even think it’s available in 3D.

Would I see it again? No. I saw it. I’ll never see it again. If somebody recommends it, I will tell them it wasn’t worth it. (-.5)

Should I rent it? Buy it? No need to rent it. Wait a couple years for the “edited for TV” version to be played. Play it in the background while you are having another conversation. It will make good background noise.

Is it family safe? No, not even close. No nudity, but sexual talk and situations. Mild drug use. It wasn’t pornographic, but it wasn’t appropriate.

Did it have “the look?” No, it was just a standard comedy.

Did it have “the feels?” I had a tingle that might have turned into excitement. Then… no… maybe it was gas.

How I Score Movies

I love movies. I have my entire life. A darkened theater is my happy place. I have seen a lot of movies. I have a strong opinion about what makes a good movie and what makes a bad movie. In my experience, most movies are have something good in them.

I don’t like horror movies or very violent movies. I just don’t see them.

Over the years, I have developed a scoring system to tell one movie from another. Based on the old “5 star” method, I rank films like this.

5 Star = Excellent, Must-See
4 Star = Pretty Good
3 Star = Meh, Mediocre, Neither good nor bad
2 Star = Bad movie
1 Star = Horrible, very bad movie

I usually give 1-star ratings to any horror movie I am tricked into seeing. I do not like them, Sam I Am.

I start with this base score, and then I add different modifiers…

Modifying the Scores

Is it worth 3D, IMAX, or any other special viewing? Some movies were made for a huge screen. Others were made for 3D. 3D really shines where there are a lot of particles on the screen at one time. Dr. Strange was a good example of this.

But you have to spend more money to view in 3D, IMAX, or a special screen. For that reason, I only pony up the cash if I know it’s going to be good in that format. Or if the movie played really well in 2D and I’m going to see it again. “The Avengers: Endgame” was a good example of that.

Ultimately, movies are a 2D medium. I don’t hold it against a movie if it’s good or bad in 3D. I don’t give bonus points if it plays well in 3D. I don’t reward the rich, I just call it out.

Would I see it again? This is a good test of a movie’s “strength.” If I want to see the movie again, it’s a keeper. I give a +.5 score adjustment to one of these. On the other end, there’s some movies I actively discourage others from seeing. For these, I will take away .5 points.

Good recent examples are “Spies In Disguise” (a Must-See) and “Midsommar”…. the latter was so horrific, I almost contemplated never seeing a movie again. I wondered, “Is this the current state of films?” I finally returned to the theater (it’s my happy place!), but I no longer make it a point to see every film.

Should I rent it? Buy it? This is another measure of a movie’s strength and staying power. It can also be a measure of a movie’s mediocrity. You might want to skip the large screen and dive into the small screen first. You could have a perfectly acceptable movie that just isn’t worth spending your hard-earned folding money on.

Maybe you should own a copy and add it to your own collection… This is especially true of really good movies or family-friendly movies (“Yes, kids, we can watch ‘Barney Goes to Jail’ one more time”).

If it’s not strong enough for the big screen, I take away .5 points. If it’s worth buying, I add .5 points.

Is it family safe? It’s hard to find a family-safe movie nowadays. Movies are pushing PG-13 and R. It seems like everything wants to be “gritty” and “real.” Bleck.

What’s wrong with a PG movie? What’s wrong with a G movie? I applaud the family-friendly movies with a .5 point boost.

Did it have “the look?” I am an artist. I dabbled in film work. I can spot some dazzling camera work, costume design, and set design. Some movies just have a unique style and look to them. Movies that do a particularly good job get a .5 point adjustment.

Also watch for these films to perform well at the next Oscars.

Did it have “the feels?” I can feel when a movie is good. It hits me right in the chest. If it’s particularly strong, it brings tears to my eyes–not because it’s sad. Because it’s awesome.

Usually, a triumphant moment where characters work together toward a common goal creates this feeling. It can elevate a movie from “pretty good” to “must-see.”

This one is hard to explain. A movie either “has it” or it does not. The first “Toy Story” movie made me cry because it was just so cool.

5+ and 0- Movies

Yes, it possible to have movies that have more than a perfect score or less than a horrible score. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles. You have one movie that just has something special. You have another movie that’s many levels of horrible. That’s why we do these here movie reviews.

With an evening movie running $20, you should do a little research.

If you go to as many movies as I do, you should consider Regal Unlimited, but that’s a topic for another day.

What if I Don’t Agree with You?

My movie reviews are polarizing. I don’t know why. I just write what I feel.

Some people really agree with me.

Some people really do not agree with me.

I haven’t seen a lot of in-between.

What kind of person are you?

If you find that you hate my reviews, you’ll find a list of movies that are “Must-See” for you.

Enjoy!

Featured image photo by Nathan Engel from Pexels

This article was also published over at Medium.com

MOVIE REVIEW: Spies in Disguise

6.5 (Must-See) Fun for the Whole Family


This article is also published on Medium.com

Summary

Animated. Will Smith voices a super-spy who is transformed into a pigeon and has to clear his name after being framed. Tom Holland plays the young sidekick inventor.

Release Date: 25 December 2019 (USA)
Studio: Blue Sky Studios
Director: Nick Bruno and Troy Quane
Writer: Brad Copeland and Lloyd Taylor
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1h 42min
Starring: Will Smith, Tom Holland, Reba McEntire View Full Cast
Genre: Animation, Action, Adventure, Spy
View Official Site

Review

Base Score: 4 (Pretty Good)

Finally, here is an animated movie that performs exactly as advertised. I saw the trailers, I thought it looked funny, and it lived up to my expectations exactly. There was no bait-and-switch. It was cool. It was funny. It was family-friendly.

What you see from the trailer is what you get.

The comedy of the movie appeals to kids (potty humor) while being tolerable to adults. I’m sure on the car ride home, kids will gleefully say, “Wasn’t that funny when you see that guy’s butt?” You can laugh and realize that this will likely be forgotten before the next kid’s movie comes out. There is nothing horrific that would be inappropriate for younger views.

What was refreshing is that there was some subtle humor that only adults would pick up on. That’s not to say that the jokes were “adult,” but that they were easy to miss. I chuckled under my breath at moments the kids behind me missed. I even snorted out loud in a too-quiet theater. Does my laugh sound like that?

It was good stuff. It is highly recommended. The modifiers below make this a must-see. Bravo, creators.

Modifiers

Is it worth 3D, IMAX, or any other special viewing? Probably not. I saw the 2D version on a normal screen, and I didn’t feel I was missing anything.

Would I see it again? Yes, I think I would. If someone hadn’t seen it, I would go to the theater again. If it was on video, I would sit through it again. There wasn’t anything annoying in it. If a kid really took to it and I had to watch it 20 times… that’s what a cell phone is for. (+.5)

Should I rent it? Buy it? It was a great film, but you could save some coin to watch it on the small screen. This one would hold up to multiple viewings, so if the kids request it, buy it. (+.5)

Is it family safe? It is rare nowadays to have a family-safe movie. There is some low-brow humor, but nothing objectionable. Hey, it makes the kids laugh, right? I didn’t notice any language. (+.5)

Did it have “the look?” Animation has gotten to the point where a realistic image is easy to pull off. Well, maybe not easy, but technically possible. Then, the trick is to make something that is visually interesting. Something will style. Like a comic book. It’s not supposed to look natural. It’s supposed to look fantastic. This movie looks fantastic. (+.5)

Did it have “the feels?” Yes, this had some strong “triumphant” moments. I was brought to tears at one point. (+.5)

Score Breakdowns

Base Score: 4 + Modifiers: 2.5 = 6.5 (Must-See)

Spies in Disguise movie poster

It Chapter Two

Summary: Pennywise the Clown is defeated by a group of under-dog kids. Now, they are all grown up. They promised to return if Pennywise was still alive. Killing begins again, so the group returns to end the clown for good.

Score: 4/5 (pretty good) This movie surprised me. It is more of an adventure than a horror movie. I like an adventure. I usually dislike horror movies. The scares are telegraphed before springing, so I could brace for impact. Like typical Stephen King, I liked the characters more than the scares. Think of this as a grown-up Goonies.

Rated: R
Duration: 2h 49min
Genre: Horror
Release Date: 6 September 2019 (USA)

Review: I don’t like horror movies. I don’t like the feeling of being afraid. That’s not why I go to movies. Life is scary enough as it is. Why would I choose to go to experience fear on my fun time?

At the same time, there are different kinds of horror. If it is completely impossible (like a zombie film), I can detach from the film and view it as a story. If it is horrible violence (like a psycho killer), I can do without. Psycho killers actually exist, and I am very much afraid of them.

The real question: Is this movie the former or the latter?

Some people like horror movies of both types. It mystifies me. Is it like a roller coaster?

As a kid, I liked Stephen King novels. They were thick and meaty. I could appreciate the rich character development. I didn’t so much like the horror elements, but I believed his characters were real people. That was cool.

The original It resonated with people. It was about “loser” kids who embrace their fear, come together, and defeat something scary. A lot of us can identify with that.

The book was a best-seller. The book turned in to a mini-series. The mini-series turned into a movie. Now, the movie turned into a sequel. I knew the plot of the original, and I was curious about how the story continued. I sucked it up and got a ticket. I was wincing on the inside. Would I regret my choice?

No, the movie was a lot better than I expected. It was actually good.

Was Pennywise the Clown scary? Yes, but all the scary scenes were brief. I could also see them coming. That let me brace for impact.

The actors were all a good choice, both young and old. Good choices all. My favorite was Bill Hader. His character grew up to be a famous stand-up comedian. He brought fun one-liners to the party.

It was cool how old memories are revealed one by one. The characters came to town without memories of their childhood. It’s been a while since I have seen the movie. I had forgotten a lot. There were a couple “Oh, yeah!” moments throughout the film.

Lastly, Pennywise was creepy. A couple of weeks ago, 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, featured sharks with razor teeth. Pennywise was creepier. But more on that some other time.

Is it worth 3D, IMAX, or any other special viewing? Probably not. The regular size is plenty scary. I’m all about the plot, which plays well at any size.

Would I see it again? Actually, I would. If somebody wanted to see it, I would sit through it again. Would I want to see it again? No. I know what happens. I’m good. (no score adjustment)

Should I rent it? Buy it? If you are a fan of Stephen King movies or the first one, rent it. I don’t think it would stand up to repeat viewings. Don’t buy it. If you are a fan of scary movies, I’m not sure it would be scary enough for you. It was plenty scary for me. I’m a mild salsa kinda guy. So, unless you’re a fan of this storyline, skip the rental. (no score adjustment)

Is it family safe? No, not really. There is some adult language and the violence could be a bit unsettling. I would peg this at a PG-13. If your teens really want to see it, they should be OK. Keep your little ones away. (no score adjustment)