Category Archives: Reviews

The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature (2017) Review

AN UNNECESSARY SEQUEL


 

Back in 2014, the animated film The Nut Job was a somewhat of a surprise hit during the first month of the new year. Created by Open Road Films and ToonBox Entertainment and directed by Peter Lepeniotis, the film, which had the voices talents of Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Katherine Heigl, Maya Rudolph, Liam Nesson, Gabriel Iglesias, and several others, followed the misadventures of Surly, a self-serving exiled squirrel, as he finds himself helping his former park animal brethren raid a nut store to survive, that (unbeknownst to them) is also the front for a human gang’s bank robbery.  As stated, the movie, which was released in January of 2014 as well as being released alongside other films like Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Ride Along, and Devil’s Due, did surprisingly well. While most critics panned the film (ranging from mixed to negative), The Nut Job did gross over $120 million worldwide against its production budget of $42 million dollar. Thus, the film didn’t break any records or becoming the highest grossing movie that year, but it did make its money back and then some, which eventually gave the studio to greenlit a sequel feature. Now, three years after the first film was released, Open Road Films (as well as ToonBox Entertainment) and director Cal Brunker present the sequel to The Nut Job, with the movie The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature. Is this follow-up animated worthy seeing or is it just another boring and unnecessary second installment? Read more

Detroit (2017) Review

IT’S TIME WE KNEW


 

Director Kathryn Bigelow has had an interesting career. While she had started out by doing several small projects (i.e. short films and music videos), Bigelow, who was once married to famed director James Cameron (the director behind Titanic, Avatar, and Aliens), began to produce feature films, including the popular 1991 action film Point Break, which starred Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze. After crafting a few more films, Bigelow stepped away from directing films before return in 2008 with the critical success of the movie The Hurt Locker, a hard-hitting and restless Iraq War drama. While the film didn’t reach critical financial success like other films that year (i.e. Cameron’s Avatar), Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker was met with much praise from critics and was award with multiple nominations during the award season; winning Six Academy Awards, including Best Picture. In 2012, Bigelow follow-up movie with Zero Dark Thirty, a dramatized version of the decade long manhunt for Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, which starred Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, and many other recognizable faces. Like her previous film, Zero Dark Thirty was met with mostly critical praise from critics and fans, garnishing several nominations at that year’s award season; winning an Academy Award for Best Sound Editing and a Golden Globe for Jessica Chastain for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama. Now, roughly five years since Zero Dark Thirty was released, director Kathryn Bigelow and Annapurna Pictures present the newest hard-hitting drama with the film Detroit. Does Bigelow newest project follow the critical success of her past two endeavors or does something get lost within this docu-drama depiction? Read more

Brigsby Bear (MovieMan Dan’s Guest Review)

A QUIRKY INDIE DRAMEDY

WITH A LOT OF HEART


Intro: It seems that every week now – I’m here reviewing a film hot off the festival circuit and well, this week is no different. Today, I’m here to talk about the much anticipated indie dramedy: “Brigsby Bear”. A film that even Kevin Smith took to Social Media to praise in the weeks leading up to it’s release. So the question is: After 7 long months of festival hype – Does ‘Brigsby’ live up? Let’s dive in. Read more

Lady Macbeth (MovieMan Dan’s Guest Review)

A CHILLING PERIOD PIECE DRAMA


Intro: Lady Macbeth first premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September ’16 where it opened to rave reviews from across the board. Most who saw the movie at the premiere were largely impressed with the film overall and so I was puzzled to see that the folks at Roadside Attractions (in the US) and D Films (in Canada) didn’t go with a Fall/Winter 2016 release to qualify the film for Awards Season glory.

Maybe they felt like they had too much competition on their hands and that the title would go unnoticed among the likes of so many other films or maybe they just didn’t see it as an Awards Season Contender, who knows? Regardless, the film is finally receiving a North American run all of these months later and I finally got my chance to check it out recently…

Before I dive in with my review, though, here’s a brief plot synopsis…

 

lady-macbeth-online-poster-art1Plot: In this adaptation of Nikolai Leskov’s novella “Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District,” a 19th century young bride is sold into marriage to a middle-aged man. (D Films)

Review: William Oldroyd’s feature debut: “Lady Macbeth” is a dark, gloomy and at times really tense and even uncomfortable film too. This is a seductive and really twisted tale with lots of sex, violence and ultimately murders which doesn’t move in the way that I thought it was going to.  There are some pretty big shock moments throughout and unlike most films of it’s nature: there is no one clear character to root for here. This is one of the few films of 2017 that makes such a move and it’s bold and most certainly leaves room for some good conversation afterwards.

With it’s confined setting – the film does plays out more like a stage play than a full theatrical production at times and it does take a few minutes to grab you but those are two of few flaws that are easy to overlook from a film of this nature. Once I got sucked in to the world and the characters that accompanied it, I was hooked from beginning to end.  It’s a really unpredictable film and without diving into spoiler territory – I will say that this film takes a lot of unexpected twists and turns as it moves along and it makes for an exciting watch.  The line between right and wrong is most certainly debatable here.

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To add to it’s praise: The Costumes, Production Design, Direction and Performances are all more than solid here and it’s really quite impressive that this is Oldroy’s first feature film.  I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see some Nominations for the film’s costume (Holly Waddington) and production designers come Awards Season time. While it’s still really early for bold predictions I will say that this is some of the best work I’ve seen in those two departments all year and those involve deserve the early recognition as such.  There isn’t really much of a score here but Oldroyd allows for the atmosphere and the outside world to become it’s own character with the sounds of nature playing a large part here instead of a true score of sorts. It works but I think a more traditional score might have been the more effective option here.

As for the screenplay it comes from first time feature penner: Alice Birch and she mixes modern dialogue *to make the film more accessible to a modern audience* with some of the slang and vocabulary from the featured time period which makes for a welcome mix.  Some history bluffs may not like this but I didn’t mind because as mentioned it’s a more accessible film this way and I had no problems trying to figure out what characters were saying at any given time thanks to this approach.

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Now, let’s talk performances.  As you can see from the headline of this review, there’s one actor who overshadows the rest. The talent I’m speaking of is: Florence Pugh and while you may not have heard of her yet, I assure you that you soon will.  She absolutely steals the show here with a quiet, yet effective lead performance.  While the rest of the actors/actresses involved turn in some good work here too she completely blows them out of the way.  What’s most impressive, however, is that this is only her second feature role to date.  This is most definitely a performance to seek out.  It’s not what I would consider to be Oscar Worthy or anything like that but it’s a sign of up and coming talent.

The only thing that didn’t really work for me was the relationship that blossomed between Lady Macbeth and Land Worker: Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis) – it’s one for which comes out of nowhere and didn’t really feel right. I don’t want to spoil anything though so you’ll have to check it out to see what I mean in this regard.  Other than that – all of the performances are really strong.  Next to Pugh, Naomi Ackie gives an emotionally powerful yet quiet performance as the housemaid that also deserves some praise. She was great in a role where she was barely allowed to speak unless spoken to.

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My Verdict: Stars 3.0 out of 5.0 – Dark and Gloomy, “Lady Macbeth” is a quiet, yet effective period piece thriller that showcases some great performances and impressive production values from across the board. Young actress: Florence Pugh is the film’s standout here as a star in the making and this film looks like it will be the one to launch off her career. Likewise, the film really nails the look and tone that Oldroyd was going for.  We are put into 19th Century England with impressive production and costume design from across the board.

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Everything fits into place nicely here and the impressive cinematography and beautiful landscapes make this one an easy watch. In terms of flaws, I had trouble buying into one of the film’s most important relationships and that’s a big problem on it’s own. Likewise, the film does feel a bit longer than it actually is and it drags a bit in the middle.  These flaws aren’t enough to distract from what I would still consider to be a good film but they definitely brought my grade down substantially.  Thankfully, more of the film works than what doesn’t and this film is full of exciting twists and turns throughout and it makes for a good watch overall.

In Conclusion: It isn’t the Must-See Indie of the Summer nor does it demand the big screen treatment, but if you enjoy films like this one than I would say: Go Check it Out. It’s one of few adult dramas currently in theaters and it’s a fun ride to go on too. From here, I will eagerly await Oldroyd’s next feature and hope he only improves as a director with future projects.

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Entering it’s Second Week of Canadian Release this Weekend: “Lady Macbeth” is Now Playing on Select Screens in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal from the folks over at D Films. Stay Tuned as the film continues to expand and play across the Country in the Coming Weeks.

 

The Dark Tower (2017) Review

A FILM THAT HAS FORGOTTEN

THE FACE OF HIS FATHER


 

In the world of literature, Stephen King is an acclaimed author who has taken readers into the varying different worlds of horror, supernatural fiction, suspense, and dark fantasy. His books, which consists of novels, non-fiction books, and short stories / novellas, have sold more than 350 million copies worldwide, with many being adapted into feature films, miniseries, television shows.  This includes Stand by Me (The Body), Shawshank Redemption, (Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption). The Mist, Under the Dome, Carrie, Children of the Corn, The Green Mile, It, and many others. However, with all these books, short stories, and novellas being adapted (on both the big and small screen), one of King’s most popular series titled The Dark Tower series has yet to be adapted. Considered to be his “magnus opus” of his writing, King’s The Dark Tower series is comprised of eights installments (nine you include a prequel novella) and tells of the tale of a “gunslinger” named Roland Deschain and his quest toward a tower, the nature of which is both physical and metaphorical. Now, Sony / Columbia Pictures and director Nikolaj Arcel present the very first film adaptation of King’s The Dark Tower series with the movie The Dark Tower. Does this page to screen film do justice to its celebrated source material or does something truly great get lost along the way? Read more

Atomic Blonde (2017) Review

JANE WICK


 

In 2014, the action genre of the movie world had an intriguing newest addition with the motion picture John Wick. The movie, which starred Keanu Reeves and was directed by Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, followed the story of John Wick as a one-man army against the Russian mob for stealing his car and killing his dog. Surprisingly, John Wick was quite an unexpected “sleeper” hit that year, especially with all the big powerhouse / blockbusters film that also came out in 2014, and gained $86 million at the box office against its $20 million production budget. The fanbase of the film, which cried out for a sequel, got their wish several years later when John Wick: Chapter 2 was released in early 2017. Naturally, the film was success and gained a little bit over what the first film was able to make at the box office. Unfortunately, while Chad Stahelski returned to direct Chapter 2, David Leitch did not return to the project. Now, in a spiritual successor to John Wick, Focus Features and director David Leitch present the film Atomic Blonde. Does this newest film, which stars Charlize Theron, have enough entertainment value within the action / spy genre or is it just a generic and hollow action movie? Read more

The Emoji Movie (2017) Review

HAVEN’T I SEEN THIS MOVIE BEFORE?


 

The animated powerhouse studios of Disney, Pixar, and Illumination Entertainment have dominated the box office the past few years with big-time hits like Finding Dory, Zootopia, Moana, Sing, Secret Life of Pets, and Despicable Me 3. All these movies were well-received from critics and moviegoers as well as reaching box office success with all cultivating big dollar profits, including Zootopia, which crossed over the billion-dollar mark. And those are just films that were released within the last two years. Underneath these studio juggernauts is Sony Pictures Animation, a sub-animation studio company under the Sony Pictures Banner, which has created several cartoon films like Hotel Transylvania (and its 2015 sequel), Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Arthur Christmas, and (recently) Smurfs: The Lost Village. These movies have faced mixed reviews from viewers and critics (i.e. not really bad, but not really good either) and have only received minor return on investments at the box office. Now, with their second animated feature of 2017 (the first being Smurfs: The Lost Village), Sony Pictures Animation and director Tony Leondis present the cartoon film The Emoji Movie. Does this movie “express” itself within its animated world or is it just shallow, quick “cash and grab” on today’s society smartphone usage? Read more

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017) Review

VISUALLY STUNNING,

BUT ULTIMATELY SHALLOW


 

Back in 1997, French filmmaker director Luc Besson released the sci-fi film The Fifth Element. The movie, which starred Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich, Gary Oldman, and Chris Tucker, told of imaginative sci-fi tale of American-style blockbuster aesthetics and quirky sense of French oddity nuances. While The Fifth Element was received as a only a minor hit with critics and moviegoers (the film did create a cult following several years later), Besson started to have the idea for another potential sci-fi project; a feature film to be based on the French sci-fi comic book series Valerian and Laureline, which was created by Pierre Christin and first released in 1967. It was during the filming of The Fifth Element that Besson conversed with Valerian’s illustrator (Jean-Claude Mézières) and shared encouragement to create a Valerian movie. Unfortunately, feeling that the current available technology of moviemaking visual effects wasn’t up to par for such an ambitious film project, Besson shelved the idea of making a Valerian movie and pursued the idea of creating more “earthbound” feature films ranging from The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, the Arthur and the Invisibles trilogy (Arthur and the Invisibles, Arthur and the Revenge of Maltazard, and Arthur 3: The War of the Two Worlds), and Lucy. However, after seeing James Cameron’s Avatar and other heavy visual effects movie, Besson’s possibility for creating “his” vision of a Valerian movie seemed much more plausible and within reach. So, twenty years after he created The Fifth Element, director Luc Besson (along with STX Entertainment and Europa Corp) returns to outer space and beyond with the movie Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Does Besson’s passion project soar into cinematic deep space or does it get lost within the vastness of Alpha (the City of a Thousand Planets)? Read more

The Dark Knight Review (Life of Films’s Guest Review)

Christopher Nolan has created many incredible films, but I think I speak for a lot of people when I say his true masterpiece is 2008’s The Dark Knight. Not only is this film perfectly put together, it is groundbreaking on many levels. It was the first film to incorporate IMAX into production, as well as taking the superhero genre into a new direction by dropping it into the real world. Read more

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