January Movie JANboree!

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Oh, hi…!  Remember me?  I complained about last year’s busy schedule reducing the amount of posts I write around here, and 2017 has gotten off to a far worse start.  I’ve gone to five movies in the first month of the year, and I’ve failed to write anything about any of them.  Until now!

So enjoy some tiny reviews of the selection of January 2017 movies I decided to check out.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get around to seeing xXx: The Return of Xander Cage.  BUT TRUST ME, I WANTED TO.

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A MONSTER CALLS

What is this?  The 2017 movie year got started off on a fun note about a…  …Oh, wait, I’m leading with A Monster Calls?  Let’s start again.

The 2017 movie year started off on a highly depressing note in a movie about a kid who creates an imaginary monster friend to help him cope with the fact that his mom is dying.  It is without a doubt the saddest movie about a tree monster that I’ve ever seen.

Was it any good?  Yeah, it’s probably more good than bad, for sure.  Maybe I didn’t find it as highly riveting as it could have been.  I certainly watered up towards the end of the film.  Kinda hard not to.  What it does really well is illustrate how complex a subject it is to be a young person about to lose the most important person in your life.

What I didn’t like about it, though, was the ham-fisted storyline of the tree monster showing up and telling “tall tales”.  Something irked me about the fact that the first time it shows up it’s all like “I will tell you three stories, and then you will tell me the truth about yourself.”  Seemed kinda lame.  And while two of the stories are kinda beautifully animated, the third “story” is eight seconds long and said in passing.

I really liked the moments when the film was being most straight-forward and genuine with its emotions.  It helped that the visual look of the film was stunning in parts.  It’s a well made movie, and you should probably go see it, but I had some problems with it.  Also, it strays a *little* too close to that early-mid 2000s genre trope where British kids got sucked into magical adventures.  American kids never get invited to Taribithia.  Just saying.

Grade:  B-

 

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PATRIOTS DAY

What is this?  Director Peter Berg teams up once again with Mark Wahlberg (he’s like a Berg, but with more Wahl) to tell the story of the Boston Marathon Bombing, and the ensuing manhunt to find the buttholes who did it.

Was it any good?  It’s about as compelling of a drama as you can make of the situation.  And after it’s done being a compelling drama, it turns into an episode of ’24’.  My eyes watered up a lil’ bit during the end credits sequence when they show photos of the real life people who died.  AS EXPECTED.

While the portrayal of most of Boston’s real life heroes who went bloodthirsty in their attempts to locate the two jerks who did this was good, and the comical slant to make the two terries look like totally lame goobers was satisfying, I feel like perhaps Walhberg’s character Tommy (or in Boston language: Taaawwwmy) was a bit…  strange…?  I got a little suspicious when the guy was like *literally* everywhere important during this whole ordeal and investigation.  Then I read afterwards that Tommy is the only made up character in the whole movie…!  I guess I understand the desire for an A-list star to be the bridge between all the story elements, but ya know, it makes you question the integrity of the storytelling or whatever.  Quit ya hahf-ahst assessment of da story, ya friggin’ skid!”

Also there’s that whole morality issue of the movie magnifying the horrible act these two bozos pulled off, which may lead other bozos to hope their terrorism may one day get a big Hollywood movie…  BUT THAT ASIDE, it’s a well-made, well-acted, entertaining, emotional, and action packed movie.

Grade:  B-

 

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LIVE BY NIGHT

What is this?  I think the best way to sum this up is that Ben Affleck made a ‘Boardwalk Empire’ movie , but set it in Boston.

Was it any good?  I was a little disappointed in what it could have been.  It felt really rushed.  Long periods of time were shown through montages multiple times.  They tried to probably cover about two seasons worth of what Boardwalk Empire plot would have done in just two hours of movie time. So… it didn’t entirely work.

It does have some interesting scenes (and to be fair, a couple of boring ones too), and a lot of the cinematography was pretty great.  In fact, if you just watch the trailer, it’s basically a highlight reel of all the great moments you see throughout the film.  I don’t always encourage watching trailers before (or instead of) movies, but I think this is a rare exception because the full two-hour movie experience is probably going to go down as one of the least memorable (but not terrible) things I will see all year.  A perfect 2017 entry for that ‘most mediocre films‘ ever list I made.

Grade:  C-

 

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SPLIT

What is this?  This is the newest film from critically famous, then critically decried, then kinda maybe on the rise again filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan, also known in the club scene as DJ Night Shift (you never see his bass drops coming).  This stars James McAvoy as a crazy guy with 23 personalities, who kidnaps three high school girls (their real names are too long to type out) for some kind of sacrifice to his mysterious 24th personality.  Not to be confused with 2009’s Splice, which was about Adrien Brody banging a mutant he made in a lab.

Was it any good?  It was probably M. Night’s second best movie ever, behind After Earth.  Haha, I kid, I kid.  It’s his best thing since The Sixth Sense.  It’s audience pleasing, it moves at an awesome pace, it’s slightly dumb, but it keeps you entertained and wondering what will happen next.

And thank god it’s kinda good, because James McAvoy really put his all into this role.  It would have been sad if he went all out and then the movie ended up being like After Earth.  That’s a risk you take when you sign onto a Shyamalan project.

This is one of those movies I feel pretty confident recommending to almost anyone, even if I think other things are *technically* better.  It’s not challenging, it stays lively, and well, mostly it’s not challenging.  For example, I liked Manchester by the Sea more than this, but I would never recommend you that movie because you’d come back and punch me in the face for wasting 150 minutes of your time.  Split, however, is the perfect dumb water cooler movie.  And I genuinely mean that as a compliment.

Grade:  B+

 

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THE FOUNDER

What is this?  In 1954, two brothers (Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch) revolutionized the concept of fast food by creating the first McDonald’s restaurant in California, which banked on speed and meticulous attention to quality.  Then this other guy named Ray Kroc shows up (played by Michael Keaton), and turns McDonald’s into a nationwide American staple, based more on making money than quality of food, with or without the brothers’ full permission.  I’ll let you guess who comes out on top while you clean that factory-processed McRib sauce off of your shirt.

Was it any good?  It was one of the most interesting “based on a true story” films I’ve seen in a long time.  However, director John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side, Saving Mr. Banks) gave it the same kind of bland, safe, generic treatment that he gives all of his movies.  What I’m saying is that I loved the story of the rise of McDonald’s, and I would pay money to watch a good documentary on the subject.  The Founder gets by on that great story, *despite* Hancock’s lack of flair.  If this story got David Fincher’s Social Network treatment, it would have been an A+.

All that aside, the film easily held my attention with good acting by the leads who portrayed compelling real-life people.  You never really know whom to side with by the end.  Is it the slippery salesman Kroc who literally swindles the brothers out of their own *name* yet ends up giving $1.5 billion to charity?  Or is it the McDonald brothers, who are hard-working everymen who just wanted to create the most high quality restaurant of all time, yet became done in by their anger-inducing stubbornness to cooperate with Kroc’s oftentimes good ideas?  Maybe I kind of liked and hated both people?  I don’t know.  I’m gonna go buy an Egg McMuffin now.  #AllDayBreakfast

Grade:  B

 

See you hopefully earlier than the end of next month!

 

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One thought on “January Movie JANboree!

  1. gayleroberts268 says:

    Thank you, Scott, for the interesting and real reviews. I use your reviews to see movies. You are the best! Thanks Gayle

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