Office Christmas Party (2016)

Hypothetical Netflix Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Let me start by saying I’ve never held an office job, so there’s no way for me to know exactly how life in an office goes down. But, I have seen every episode of The Office, so, you know, I got that going for me. This movie makes working in an office seem fun.

With the very real threat of having their office branch close, T.J. Miller, Jason Bateman, and Olivia Munn throw a hail Mary Christmas party to attract a big client who can save their jobs. Think Project X level party, but with everyone over thirty. I’m talkin’ copy machines being thrown out of a twenty story window level party. Bards would tell tales of this party, you know, if bards were still things. I guess rappers and country music singers are the 21st century bards…sorta.

The major thing this movie has going for it is the cast. Basically everyone is recognizable from one thing or another and, on top of that, most of them manage to be funny. It’s not like pee your pants level funny throughout, but the funny bits are staggered enough to keep you watching.

I would say this movie is totally worth the watch if you’re in the mood for a good laugh and a movie you don’t need to give your complete attention to.

Batman: Assault on Arkham (2014)

Hypothetical Netflix Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Did you see Suicide Squad and think to yourself “well this movie could be better”? Well this is that better movie. I honestly don’t know why they didn’t high-jack the plot of this animated feature and make it live action. I wouldn’t have held it against them. In fact I would have preferred it.

For a movie titled Batman: Assault on Arkham, The Dark Knight manages to take a back seat, letting the Suicide Squad take the reins for the majority of the flick. Like in the live action Squad movie, the team includes a roster of Harley Quinn, Deadshot, and Captain Boomerang. Instead of Killer Croc, this iteration has King Shark and instead of El Diablo we get Killer Frost. Also, instead of the kinda racist SlipKnot, we get the kinda racist KGBeast as the totally expendable, under developed character.

This movie is leaps and bounds smarter than its live action counter part. It works in Batman in a much slicker way that not only fits his character, but also for the team, again, to do the lions share of the “suiciding”.

The voice acting is golden, boasting a stacked cast including Kevin Conroy as Batman (a role he’s been playing for over twenty years) Neal McDonough, Hynden Walch, and Joe DiMaggio. The only thing I don’t really like about this movie is the music they choose to play in the background. Most of the time, it sounds like a late ’90’s techno rave. Not exactly the coolest thing in the world to listen to…not even in the late ’90’s.

But in all seriousness, if you saw Suicide Squad and thought it was mediocre at best, check this one out. Give the team a little redemption.

The Watcher (2016)

Hypothetical Netflix Rating: 2.7 out of 5 stars

Let me start by saying that there are a couple movies out there called “The Watcher”. This one does not stand out. From it’s predictable plot, to it’s standard at best acting, this movie doesn’t really do much at all aside from captive time passing.

The story centers around a couple (Edi Gathegi, who played Darwin in X-Men First Class and Erin Cahil, who was in one of the iterations of Power Rangers) who after winning a much fought over bid on a house, are stalked by a mysterious figure that calls itself “the raven”. If you choose to watch this movie, the rest of the plot sort of fills itself in, which in this case is a bad sign. It’s a mystery that is so fucking obvious, I’m surprised the people who comprise this universe aren’t constantly killing themselves in freak toaster/dishwater accidents. If the twist surprised you, you can go ahead and finish grade school.

There’s this little thing that every story ever told uses called “the economy of scenes”. The basic principle of this is that you only have so much time to tell a story so because of this fact, every thing that you see as to build to a certain conclusion. This movie does a terrible job of this by only introducing five character aside from the protagonists. Jeez, I wonder which who the stalker is? Do you think maybe one of the only other character we’ve meet could be behind it? No way. They’re too obvious. Yeah. They are.

The failings of this movie lie in the writer. The acting is totally fine. In fact I thought Erin Cahil did a better than the movie demanded job. Edi Gathegi did just alright. I was hoping for more from him seeing as he played one of my favorite X-Men from the comics. They did his character wrong in First Class…just sayin’. Everyone else in this movie isn’t worth mentioning. Aside from Riley Baron. This is only his second outing, so I’m not going to fault the dude.

All in all, I’d say if you’re pressed for time in the viewing department (and who among us isn’t?), then I’d say you can probably skip this one.

 

Logan (2017)

Hypothetical Netflix Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Holy fuck. This movie is really rated R. I mean, it felt like they really doubled down on the rating. Patrick Stewart dropped like twenty fucks. That’s like ten more fucks than he dropped in Green Room and he played a God damn Nazi in that movie. And the violence. The glorious violence. Hugh Jackman stabbed so many people through the face; like a whole room full of people get face stabbed. I guess I should probably talk about the plot or something before I keep ranting about the blood shed and fuck bombs.

The story starts in the year 2029. No new mutants have been born in years, the X-Men are all dead save for Wolverine and Professor X who are old men on the verge of death. Logan and Chuck are lives out the rest of their dead on the Mexican border when this little girl (Dafne Keen) is dropped in their laps. Logan reluctantly agrees to take her up to Canada after the Reavers (cyborg mercenaries) come to collect her.

One of the things that I really liked about this film was how accessible it was. The themes of the movie are plainly stated simply by showing a couple clips from the movie Shane. I also liked the violence. And the swears. At times, the swears seemed forced, like “Oh, we can say ‘fuck’? Well shit, let’s say ‘fuck’ at least once every other line.” The violence doesn’t play the same way. That’s one of those inherent things about the character that the studio never really got right. Wolverine is a guy with knives attached to his hands, he’s going to spend a good deal of time slicing body parts off. Can’t do that in a PG-13 flick. Here, the first scene sets the tone, Logan’s chops a guys hand clean off.

I guess what I really liked about this movie is how well it worked as a final Wolverine film for Hugh Jackman. We’ve seen the character mature to an old man filled with regrets, who knows he can’t change who he is to spite the fact that he indeed has. They manage to tell a broad story with limited details on what happened in the gap years of the series (The Wolverine takes place in 2013, so there’s 16 years unaccounted for). To sum it up, this movie surprised me in more ways than one which was refreshing.

Now go watch Patrick Stewart give several fucks.

The Conjuring 2 (2016)

Hypothetical Netflix Rating: 3.4 out of 5 stars

James Wan’s follow up to his 2013 film, The Conjuring, (not that you couldn’t have guess what The Conjuring 2 was a follow up to), didn’t quite…conjure…the same magic. That’s not to say that there weren’t enjoyable and scary moments.

This time around, the Warren’s (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) travel to England to investigate a haunting in Enfield. There, a single mother (Frances O’Connor) and her four kids are being…well…haunted.

The story behind the haunting was engaging, and much like with the original film, you actually care about what happens to the people being affected by the poltergeist. The thing that sorta holds the movie back, however, is its similarity to its predecessor. It felt at times like it was just the same old bag of tricks being re-opened. The taunt scares just weren’t there like in the first one. What this movie did better was build up the ghost behind the haunting.

In the first movie, you find out over the course of the movie who the ghost is, way it’s haunting the house, blah blah blah. In this one, the hat is tipped sooner with a darker mystery working in the background. The inherit downside to “the darker mystery at work” is that it means there is going to be yet another spin off much in the way there was an Annabelle spin off (which, by the way, there’s another one of those train-wrecks coming down the pipe later this year). I guess my main beef with this movie was that did tried so hard to be like the original while still being open enough to have legs to run off into another movie.

Some parts hit the mark, others missed wide, others felt pandering. All in all, it was worth the watch, but you can tell that it won’t hold up on a second or third viewing like the original. There was a real artistry behind the first one, holding to the film ascetics of the 1960’s, the wonderful paces of the jump scares. There wasn’t really any of that here, which is sad because James Wan passed up a literal boat load of money to direct the next Fast and Furious movie to direct Conjuring 2. 

The Similars (2015)

Hypothetical Netflix Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

From the very opening of this Spanish language film, you can tell that film maker Isaac Ezban was inspired by The Twilight Zone. From the mostly black and white color to the book-ended voice over, this movie plays like and extra long episode of the cult classic. The idea of working around the frame work of the Rod Sterling property is great, however, this, in part, straight rips off an episode of the show.

The Similars tells the story of a group of strangers in 1960’s Mexico waiting in a bus station. Single location, just like The Zone. The strangers are stuck in the station due to the severe rain storm outside. They get these messages over the radio that something is happening around the world, something unexplainable. Everyone is turning into the same person, but only in the face. Hilariously terrifying. You’re probably thinking, “Well that’s Twilight Zone ish, but that wasn’t in an episode.” True. But that’s not the great twist in the movie.

I won’t ruin it here. Instead, I’m going to talk about how weird it is to see porn stars with the face of a middle aged Mexican man with a beard. That’s an image that is going to be scarred into my mind for a while. I’m shuttering just thinking about it. And then I laugh, because of how goofy the whole thing is.

Seriously, this movie is worth the watch. THe only beef I had is the previously stated fact that it’s a total rip off.

Rings (2017)

Hypothetical Netflix Rating: 2.9 out of 5 stars

So you’re probably sitting there thinking, “Hey man, why’d you watch the third installment to a film franchise that lost it’s steam a decade ago? It’s probably going to be a piece of shit.” To which I say, “Why not?” And you wouldn’t exactly be wrong in your summation that this movie is shitty. It’s just not a total piece of shit.

For those who slept through 2002,  the basic plot is that there’s a haunted video tape that when you watch it, a little girl calls you and says “seven days” then you die at the end of those seven days. The twist is that this time around Johnny Galecki (Big Bang Theory) watches the tape and, being a professor, gets the bright idea to do experiments revolving around the afterlife. He starts showing the video to students, telling them to copy it with the promise that he’ll find someone else to watch their copy. This goes all well and good till it doesn’t. That side of the story I was totally fine with. The main problem this movie has is that Johnny Galecki is only a minor character.

The real story centers on Julia, “played” by Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz, who has more names than acting chops. She gave hands down one of the most hollow performances I’ve seen in a major studio release in years. I couldn’t tell if it was the language barrier holding her back (she’s Italian) or what, but she acted little a strawman the entire time. Her boyfriend Holt, played by Alex Roe, was not much better. It was like the cast agent said, “Meeh, they look alright. They got the part.” “Do you want them to read any lines before you give them the job?” “No, they’ll be alright.” I’m getting way off track here.

Julia and Holt are a couple who can’t act. Holt is off to college where he gets messed up with Professor Galecki and watches the tape. Julia goes to find him, she watches the tape, but her version has bonus material. She follows the bread crumbs and from there the movie actually manages to recapture some of the charm the original had.

That was actually the saddest part of the movie for me; the story wasn’t that bad. There were was a good amount of plot development and jump scares to keep me interested. The two lead actors torpedoed this movie so bad, it over powered all the good things this movie had going for it. Seriously, the acting is laughably bad at parts, which, again, kinda saves it for when it is unlaughably bad.

Watch it if you dare.

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999)

Hypothetical Netflix Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I’ll just come right out and say it: Forest Whitaker is the fucking man. Writer/ director Jim Jarmusch wrote the role of Ghost Dog for Forest Whitaker, which at first sounded very strange to me being that I always thought of Forest Whitaker as the dude from the Last King of Scotland and Panic Room. I never thought of him as a hit man with a code akin to a samurai, but he totally pulls it off. He’s fantastic. And deadly.

The film follows Forest Whitaker, who after completing a hit in the first ACT, is put on the mob’s radar as someone who needs to be taken care of. Not in a “awww, he’s sick and needs soup” taken care of. I mean, “let’s put bullets in him” taken care of. Thus begins Forest Whitaker’s path of vengeance.

For such a straight forward plot, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, is unbelievably engaging. The characters introduced are incredibly interesting and rich. Ghost Dog has two friends: a man who only speaks French and runs an ice cream truck, and a little girl who he trades books with. Ghost Dog does not speak French, which actually creates some good moments of levity. Jim Jarmusch did a great job writing this film if only for those moments.

The real take away from this film is the actually code of the samurai that Forest Whitaker dispenses via voice over and text cards. Not only do they fill in all the holes in the character of Ghost Dog, they also act as chapter markers, telling the audience what’s about to happen. It’s a really neat idea that gives one pause, because the teachings of the samurai are cross applicable to every culture even modern day New Jersey or New York or where ever the hell this movie is supposed to take place. They never give you that piece of information. Anywho.

This movie made me want to become a modern day samurai. Ten bucks says you will too after watching it.

In a Valley of Violence (2016)

Hypothetical Netflix Rating: 3.2 out of 5 stars

In a Valley of Violence tells the story of Ethan Hawke, a man so to himself he talks to his dog more than any other character in the first ACT. In this western, Hawke is making his way to Mexico after peacing out from the war effort. You know. The Civil War. Because it’s a western. He abandoned the cause because of all the innocent Native women and children he killed. Because it’s a western. Also there’s a rattle snake. Because…you get my point.

For a director and writer who I admire very much for his work in the horror genre, Ti West didn’t really bring anything new or interesting to the western genre. Which you think he would have, being that you can’t spell “Western” without “West”, but instead what he gave us was a series of tropes blended with the themes of other movies, mostly First Blood and John Wick. Yeah, you totally read that right. Take the PTSD themes from First Blood and the revenge plot from John Wick, set it in the most stereotypical old west you can think of and you got yourself In a Valley of Violence. It was like Mad Libs for movies.

But that doesn’t mean I hated. No. If I hated it, it wouldn’t have scored above a 2. Come on people, you should know how rating systems work by now, you’re…adults? I actually don’t know you. Maybe I’m projecting. I digress.

This was actually Ethan Hawke’s first western. Although Magnificent Seven got released first, turns out In a Valley of Violence finished wrapping first. Isn’t Hollywood fun?  Anywho, he actually did a pretty good job playing old timey John Rambo-Wick. Kinda weird how “John” is pretty much very action hero’s name. I guess his name was Paul in this one, if you wanna be technical. Whatever whatever. Ethan Hawke did well. The rest of the cast did great too.

Quick run down: you got John Travolta as the Marshal, Taissa Farmiga as the only one on John Wick’s, I mean Paul’s side, James Ransone (who was in Sinister with Ethan Hawke) as the douche bag who hates Rambo out of boredom, Karen Gillan as James Ransone girlfriend who is also a douche for no good reason, Burn Gorman as the drunken priest who acts as an ACT marker in the movie getting only two or three scenes, and Larry Fessenden as Larry Fessenden. I like Larry a lot. He pops up in a couple of Ti West’s films in little bit parts as well as Ti West type movies. Something about the shape of his head is oddly appealing to the eye. That made me sound like a serial killer and I apologize Larry. Please don’t tell the cops about those letters…which I totally didn’t send by the way. Anywho.

I was really looking forward to watching this movie, and this could very well be one of those situations where expectations didn’t meet up with reality, so that’s what really brought this movie don’t in my mind. I can’t be sure. Either way, it’s worth the watch if you got nothing better to do.