Destination Wedding

DestinationWedding

Destination Wedding

Directed By: Victor Levin
Starring: Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves, DJ Dallenbach, Ted Dubost, D. Rosh Wright, Greg Lucey, Donna Lynn Jones, et. al.
Rated: R
Grade: C+

On their way to the wedding of a mutual friend, two socially awkward narcissists, Lindsay and Frank, meet and take an instant dislike to one another. As they find themselves continually paired off during the weekend’s festivities, their initial dislike slowly evolves to a tolerance for each other. Their bond, developed through a mutual hatred of nearly everything in life, slowly strengthens after they encounter a mountain lion when they take a walk in order to avoid the wedding reception. After tumbling down a hill while escaping the animal, they decide to enter into a sexual relationship, if only for the remainder of the weekend. However, as the weekend comes to a close, they ponder what it would be like to have a relationship after they return home.

This is a difficult movie analyze. The entirety of it is spent with the two main characters, with no one else having an actual speaking role. By the end, you’re thinking that these two deserve each other, but are strangely happy for them as well. Among the difficult pieces is Frank’s relationship to the groom (I think they mention his name as Tom, but he’s not named in the credits). It’s unclear whether they’re just good friends, or if they’re step/half-siblings. Franks mother and stepfather are in attendance, so I’m leaning towards the latter option. The acting itself is well-done, though the constant chunks of dialogue tend to wear on you after a while. Ryder and Reeves still have good chemistry, and they manage to make their characters into a believable couple.

There aren’t any special effects beyond background filler, which is done well. The location they filmed at offers some lovely scenery.

All in all, if you don’t mind what amounts to a dialogue-heavy two person stage play about rampant, unapologetic narcissists deciding whether or not it’s worth the effort to fall in love, then you’ll probably like this movie. It may not be a typical rom-com that’s laugh out loud funny, but there are moments of chuckle-worthy humor sprinkled throughout the film.

Destination Wedding is available to stream through Amazon Prime, and it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Absentia

Absentia

Absentia

Starring: Stana Katic, Patrick Heusinger, Cara Theobold, Neil Jackson, Angel Bonanni, Bruno Bichir, Paul Freeman, Ralph Ineson, Christopher Colquhoun, Patrick McAuley, Amber Aga, Borislava Stratieva, et.al.
Rating: TV-MA
Network: Amazon Prime
Grade: B

Five years after disappearing while investigating a serial killer, FBI Agent Emily Byrne is found miraculously alive. As she tries to adjust to the new world around her, in which her husband is remarried and her son thinks of her as a stranger, someone begins murdering those involved with her kidnapping and leaving evidence that it’s Emily doing the killing, and that she may have been involved with the serial killer she was investigating. Unable to trust those around her, Emily takes off and begins investigating the crimes herself, racing against the clock to find a killer that has ties to her past.

This intense crime thriller has a great premise, and spends the first three quarters of the series crafting a believable “Is she or isn’t she?” scenario, only to have it all unravel towards the end, which only makes me think that the original idea was to have Emily be the one behind the killings, or at the very least, have her be involved somehow. The acting is well done all around, with Katic giving a wonderful performance as someone who is unsure of themselves, as well as someone who believably has PTSD. The actors playing her family also do well, giving happy but conflicted performances.

What little special effects are used are done well, and are mostly used as background filler.

Despite a few too many red herrings and a bit of stumbling towards the end, it’s still an interesting, fast-moving storyline that should hold a persons interest until the end. It’s a serialized story that requires you to pay a little more attention than the average show, but I don’t see where that would be a problem unless you’ve completely disconnected from the story.

Absentia is only available to stream from Amazon Prime, with no word as to whether or not they plan to make it available on video.

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Purge Anarchy

PurgeAnarchy

The Purge: Anarchy

Directed By: James DeMonaco
Starring: Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Zach Gilford, Kiele Sanchez, Zoë Soul, Edwin Hodge, Michael Kenneth Williams, Lakeith Stanfield, Jack Conley, et. al.
Rated: R
Grade: A-

In the second installment of the Purge anthology, we see the lives of five individuals intersect as they all find themselves out on the streets and exposed during the dangerous holiday. Shane and Liz are on their way home from a visit with Liz’s sister, and their car breaks down. Unable to get a tow so close to the commencement of the Purge, they decide to continue the rest of the way home on foot, but quickly realize they’re being pursued by a group of individuals they encountered earlier in the day. Eva and Cali, a mother and daughter, are rescued from a dangerous neighbor by a group of masked strangers, only to be forcibly removed from their home by their rescuers for another man, referred to only as Big Daddy, to kill. They’re saved by Leo, a man on his way to the home of the man who killed Leo’s son in a drunk driving accident who was released on a technicality. Shane and Liz, who have managed to evade their pursuers, find Leo’s car and take temporary refuge in it. After Leo returns to his car with Eva and Cali in tow, he makes a deal with the four of them to take them someplace safe where they can wait out the rest of the night and he can continue on with his mission. Together, the five of them evade both sets of pursuers in the hopes of finding sanctuary with one of Eva’s friends, and when things begin to go awry, they all must fight together to survive the night.

As far as sequels so, The Purge: Anarchy is a rarity. It introduces an entire cast of new characters, with only one carrying over from its predecessor. It also manages expand the universe it exists in without completely ignoring the information presented in the movie before it. And, where the original was more of a locked room thriller, this is almost an action movie more than a horror. The acting is well done, and the characters work well together, something that may or may not have been aided by the fact that Gilford and Sanchez, who play Shane and Liz, are a real-life married couple.

What few special effects there are were done well. This movie had a bigger budget than the original, so they could afford to make the background effects more seamless this time around. There are also several explosions, and a few instances of near-future technology.

If you enjoyed the original, you’re likely to enjoy this movie as well. The storylines are interesting, and it’s interesting to why what for some of the characters were targeted. It also shows how an economic group different from the original handles the annual Purge, and how they attempt to keep themselves safe.

The Purge: Anarchy isn’t available to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Jurassic World 2

JurassicWorld2

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Directed By: J.A. Bayona
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Danielle Pineda, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, Ted Levine, BD Wong, Geraldine Chaplin, Isabella Sermon, et. al.
Rated: PG-13
Grade: B+

When the volcano on the island of Isla Nublar reactivates and prepares to erupt, the question of what to do with the dinosaurs still living there in the ruins of the Jurassic World Theme park becomes a global debate. Former Park Director Claire Dearing accepts an offer to help rescue several of the species before the island is destroyed. She enlists the help of her ex, and fellow former park employee Owen Grady by telling him that there’s a chance he can rescue Blue, a Velociraptor with whom he had a bond. Shortly after arriving on the island, however, Owen, Claire and their small team learn that the plan to rescue the animals was just a ploy to capture Blue so her genetics can be used in Dr. Wu’s continued dinosaur hybridization project. After barely making it back to the main land, Owen and Claire attempt to enlist an aging Benjamin Lockwood, the former partner of John Hammond, to keep Eli Mills, the man Lockwood hired to be his aide, from selling the dinosaurs to the highest bidder. However, after a dangerous hybrid is accidentally set loose in the mansion, Claire and Owen, along with Lockwood’s granddaughter Maisie, must figure out how to destroy it and stop Eli before either he or the dinosaur can kill them.

The latest entry into the Jurassic Park franchise is serviceable as far as movies go. It’s not anything great, but it’s not the worst of the franchise either. Claire and Owen are the only characters returning from the previous movie, along with a brief appearance by Ian Malcolm from the original Jurassic Park. The acting is on par with the other movies in the series. As is typical with action movies, it’s not great, but not terrible either. No one really stands out as exceptionally good or bad, and the new characters seem to blend well into the Jurassic universe.

The special effects are great, which is typical with the series. The dilapidation of the new park was done well. The creature effects were realistic and the volcanic eruption was done well. The background effects aren’t noticeable.

For all its faults, Jurassic World is an entertaining movie. The plot may be a little thin, and they retconned John Hammond’s partner in out of nowhere, but aside from that, it shows a side to the possibility of bringing dinosaurs back from the dead that hadn’t really been touched upon in the previous installments, which is selling the creatures as weapons and/or pets. It also delves a little further into the hybridization plan that was introduced in the previous film, and implies that Eli was working with the military to create the living weapons.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom isn’t available to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Solo

Solo

Solo: A Star Wars Story

Directed By: Ron Howard
Starring: Alden Ehrenreich, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Woody Harrelson, Thandi Newton, Jon Favreau, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Paul Bettany, Joonas Suotamo, Erin Kellyman, Linda Hunt, et. al.
Rated: PG-13
Grade: B+

The story of young Han Solo, and how he came to be the man he was at the beginning of the original Star Wars movie. Growing up an orphan on the planet Corellia, Han becomes a street thief for the White Worms gang and their leader, Lady Proxima. After a con goes bad, Han and his girlfriend, Qi’ra attempt to escape through the nearest spaceport, but Qi’ra is captured, and Han only escapes by joining he Imperial Army as a pilot. Years later having been relegated to the Imperial infantry after getting kicked out of flight school, Han deserts the army after the invasion of an otherwise peaceful planet. Originally placed in a holding cell to be fed to another prisoner, which the soldiers guarding it call the Beast, who turns out to be a Wookie named Chewbacca. After escaping the holding cell, Han and Chewbacca join up with a group of smugglers, led by a man named Beckett. After their first outing with Beckett stealing valuable coaxium goes disastrously wrong, Beckett, Han, and Chewbacca go to the leader of the gang Crimson Dawn, a violently dangerous man named Dryden Voss, to plead for mercy after their failed mission. While there, Han learns that Qi’ra also works for Voss, and he comes up with a new plan to get the coaxium that Crimson Dawn was promised. After obtaining a ship with the help of Lando Calrissian, the group sets off and steals the unrefined coaxium from the planet Kessel. After making it to the refinery planet, Han is confronted with the surviving victims of Crimson Dawn, and must choose whether to hand the coaxium over to Voss, do what’s right and stand up to him.

There was so much hope for this movie when it was announced. With the success of the new Star Wars trilogy, as well as the previous Star Wars Story, Rogue One, Solo was all but guaranteed to be a great success. Unfortunately, the movie was marred by behind the scenes drama, which included the firing of the original directors shortly before filming wrapped and then reshooting about 80% of the movie, and a release date a little too close to the previous Star Wars movie kept this from being the mega blockbuster it could have been. As for the acting, Alden Ehrenreich does a serviceable job as Han Solo, though the characters trademark sarcastic swagger seems to have been replaced with a warm congeniality. The real stand outs are Donald Glover and Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who deliver superb performances and steal nearly every scene they’re in.

The special effects are fantastic. ILM is one of the top effects companies and they do a great job. There are plenty of space shots, even though the planetary landscapes look decidedly Earthy. All of the background elements are seamless, and the instances of futuristic/alien technology and characters are rendered well.

Despite all of the controversy surrounding the filming/production of the movie, they managed to make an entertaining feature. It may not be the best entry into Star Wars canon, and it may not answer all of the questions fans wanted answered, but it’s enjoyable, and can be watched without having seen any other Star Wars movie. It’s definitely I’d recommend watching, and no one should be mad at having spent the money renting/buying it.

Solo: A Star Wars Story isn’t available to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Killjoys Season 1

Killjoys

Killjoys: Season 1

Starring: Hanna John-Kamen, Aaron Ashmore, Luke MacFarlane, Tamsen McDonough, Thom Allison, Rob Stewart, Morgan Kelly, Sarah Power, Mayko Nguyen, et. al.
Rated: TV-14
Network: Syfy
Grade: B+

Dutch and John are Reclamation Agents, called Killjoys, operating out of a city called The Quarter for an agency simply called The Company on the planet of Westerley. After John takes a Level 5 contract with a kill order, Dutch must save both him and the person the contract was put out on, who happens to be John’s estranged brother, D’avin. After John and Dutch try to find a way to release D’avin from his kill order by recruiting him into the Killjoys, they start looking for the person who put the contract out on him in the first place, which is complicated by the fact that Dutch’s past comes back to haunt her shortly after the kill order is taken. Caught between wanting answers about her past and wanting to protect her friends, Dutch tries her best to pretend nothing is wrong while searching for the man who raised her to be a killer.

This show is probably best described as Sci-Fi Lite. Yes, it takes place on an alien planet in an alien star system, but there aren’t any actual aliens. At least not the intelligent, humanoid kind popularized by other sci-fi series. The show itself has a light-hearted, buddy cop feel to it, and plays out more like an action adventure series that happens to take place somewhere other than Earth. There are cases of the week interspersed with subplots revolving around the first season’s main story of trying to protect Dutch from her past and the people who want to use her as the weapon she was raised to be.

Considering this is a mid-budget science fiction show, the acting is pretty good. Occasionally characters get a tad bit over dramatic, but the main cast the regular supporting characters manage to keep from chewing on the scenery too much. John-Kamen, Ashmore, and MacFarlane all work well together and have decent chemistry, and Ashmore and MacFarlane are believable as siblings. All of the actors appear to be using their natural accents.

There isn’t much to be said about scenery. Despite the fact that it takes place on alien worlds, what few landscapes we see are Earth-like. The scenes that take place in The Quarter make it look like a run-down warehouse district with the buildings having been reperposed to fit the current needs of the population. What few special effects are used are done well. There are instances of futuristic technology, and a few shots of space.

This is an enjoyable series. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, but isn’t too heavy on comedy either. The mostly episodic format keeps you from needing to be glued to your television, but it’s entertaining enough that if you need to leave the room, you may find yourself pausing the show anyway.

Killjoys is available free to stream through SyFy, and can be rented through Netflix home delivery service or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Jack Ryan

JackRyan

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan

Starring: John Krasinsky, Wendell Pierce, Abbie Cornish, John Hooganakker, Ali Suliman, Dina Shihabi, Haaz Sleiman, Karim Zein, Timothy Hutton, et. al.
Rated: TV-MA
Network: Amazon
Grade: A-

CIA analyst Jack Ryan gets caught up in a game of cat and mouse with an Israeli terrorist named Sulieman after uncovering the existence of a radical cell laundering money throughout Europe. After realizing that a man rescued from a CIA interrogation site is actually the terrorist leader he’s been looking for, he becomes determined to see the cell wiped out and their plans for an attack on American soil stopped. Despite needing to convince his superiors that the threat is immediate, Jack, with the help of his supervisor, continues his investigation and slowly works to unravel Sulieman’s terrorist network.

Of all the incarnations of Jack Ryan that have appeared on screen, John Krasinsky’s portrayal of the iconic character feels more believable than others. While he has put on more muscle mass in recent years, he’s still lithe, and despite being attractive, he has a boy-next-door quality that makes you believe he would be a data analyst. The other actors seem to be well-cast as well. Everyone has decent chemistry, and the relationship between Krasinsky’s Jack and Cornish’s Catherine is believable.

The acting is fairly decent. I’m unfamiliar with most of the actors on the show, so I can’t really compare with pervious works. Those I was familiar with seemed to be on the same caliber as what I’d previously seen them in. Krasinky seems a tad bit uncomfortable with action scenes, but that could just be done as part of his character. Cornish handles her medical jargon rather well, and despite her being British, her accent doesn’t noticeably waver (at least to my untrained ears). Hutton and Pierce do well with the authoritarian roles, and Suliman, Shihabi, Sleiman, and Zein seem to have a decent handle on their characters as well.

The majority of the show takes place in either an office building or in Saudi Arabia and nearby countries, and while I’m sure that many parts of Saudi Arabia are beautiful, the rural parts that are shown are mostly sand dunes, military bases, or terrorist strongholds, which don’t offer much of a view. They do travel to France briefly, but most of the scenes are either indoors or at night. The special effects are well done, with a number of explosions, as well as any background filler, which isn’t noticeable.

If you don’t mind a slow-burn spy thriller, then you’ll probably enjoy this series. It moves along fast enough to remain interesting, and while it does require a little more attention than your average action show, you don’t need to remain glued to your television the entire time. There is a subplot that didn’t really seem to fit, but it doesn’t take up too much of the viewers time, and it’s finished with over the course of two or three episodes.

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan is only available to stream through Amazon Prime, with no word as to whether they plan to release it on video.

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Set It Up

SetItUp

Set It Up

Directed By: Claire Scanlon
Starring: Zoey Deutch, Glen Powell, Lucy Liu, Taye Diggs, Joan Smalls, Meredith Hagner, Pete Davidson, Jon Rudnitsky, Tituss Burgess, Jake Robinson, et. al.
Network: Netflix
Rated: TV-14
Grade: B

Harper and Charlie, a pair of overworked assistants working in the same office complex, decide to set their bosses up for romance in order to gain a little bit of personal freedom. As their bosses grow more serious, the two spend more and more time together devising schemes to keep their bosses happy and distracted, while also forming an unexpected friendship. This newfound friendship, as well as their respective jobs, however, are compromised when it’s revealed that the motives of one of their bosses isn’t as quite what they originally thought.

Another of Netflix’s recent spate of original-content rom-coms, this one is fairly average. The storyline is a Parent Trap-like scheme, and while the motivations are somewhat understandable, tricking two people into beginning a relationship so you can have more time off is a fairly crap thing to do. The only thing that keeps that aspect from being a complete turnoff is that the bosses aren’t much better people themselves, though one does get a small bit of redemption by the end. The actors playing Harper and Charlie have decent chemistry, and one nice thing is that they initially become friends before realizing they have feelings for each other.

There aren’t any obvious special effects beyond background filler, which isn’t really noticeable.

Anyone who likes rom-coms should enjoy this. As stated before, while the initial setup is done for selfish reasons, it doesn’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the movie. It’s a simple story that’s easy to follow, so you don’t need to remain glued to your seat while watching.

Set It Up is currently only available through Netflix, with no word as to whether or not they plan to release it for purchase.

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To All The Boys

ToAllTheBoys

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

Directed By: Susan Johnson
Starring: Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, Janel Parrish, Anna Cathcart, Andrew Bachelor, Trezzo Mahoro, Madeline Arthur, Emilija Baranac, Israel Broussard, John Corbett, et. al.
Network: Netflix
Rated: TV-14
Grade: A-

For 17 year old Lara Jean Covey, skating through the real world nearly invisible and thriving on a steady diet of romance novels and fantasy is as close to a real relationship she believes she’s going to get. However, after a series of love letters she’s written to various crushes over the years, including her sister’s newly exboyfriend, are mailed to the intended recipients, she finds herself suddenly visible to those around her. When she’s approached by Noah, one of the boys who received a letter, with a plan to make Lara Jean’s current crush jealous, as well as get back at Noah’s exgirlfriend for publicly breaking up with him, Lara Jean agrees, and soon learns that reality can be much better than fantasy.

Over the years, Netflix original content has become more diversified and has delved into nearly every genre. This movie, which is a teen rom-com based on a YA novel of the same name, is an easy-to-watch, fluffy popcorn movie that reminds you of the heyday of these type of movies. The story is simple, without being overly so, and characters and actors all work well together. The teen actors (or the actors playing the teens) are especially charming, and the leads don’t feel like their chemistry is forced.

There aren’t any obvious special effects beyond background filler, which isn’t really noticeable.

If you have a Netflix account and like cute rom-coms, then you’ll like this movie. As stated before, the storyline is simple and easy to follow so you don’t need to be glued to your television to enjoy it. I haven’t read the book it’s based on, so I can’t say how closely it follows that, but even those who haven’t read it should find the movie enjoyable.

To All The Boys I’ve Love Before is currently only available through Netflix, with no word as to whether or not they plan to release it for purchase.

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