The Purge

Purge

The Purge

Directed By: James DeMonaco
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey, Max Burkholder, Adelaide Kane, Edwin Hodge, Rhys Wakefield, Ty Oller, Arija Bareikis, et.al.
Rated: R
Grade: A

In the near future, the United States has a 12-hour period once a year in which all crime is legal and all emergency services are suspended, called The Purge. As one wealthy family settles in behind their high-tech security system, they see a bloodied stranger asking for shelter. After one of them lets the man in, the people pursuing him come knocking, and they plan to use any means necessary to get the man back and take revenge for the killing of one of their own.

The Purge is a horror thriller that uses its low-budget and short runtime to its advantage. Low-lighting and jump scares account for most of the genre elements used. The action takes a little time to get going, but once it does, there are very few breathing periods until the last couple of scenes. Hawke and Headey do well as the blissfully ignorant rich people living in their own little bubble, and the pair have a decent chemistry that makes them believable as a couple. Wakefield, however, is the real standout. As the leader of the home invaders, he carries a sense of maniacal menace thinly veiled by a sheen of polite patience and charm. His character even goes so far as to shoot one of his own crew after they suggest immediate force to get their target back, instead of waiting for the family to hand the man over of their own accord. The writing seems fairly typical for a horror movie. Though there does seem to be a little more thought put into the plot than is standard for these types of movies. The fact that, in the movie, the Purge is treated like a holiday or sporting event, with stats about various cities participation percentages, is almost more scary than the home invasion plot.

Since the movie was made on a shoestring budget, most of the effects practical. The background filler is somewhat noticeable in places, but since most of the movie takes place in one location, it doesn’t detract from the film.

If you enjoy horror movies, you’ll probably enjoy The Purge. It’s scary enough to keep you entertained, but not so scary you’ll regret having watched it when you’re trying to sleep. If nothing else, it would serve as good background noise when you’re working on something and don’t want to do so in silence, and it’s probably something you’ll be comfortable with watching more than once.

The Purge is not 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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Daphne and Velma

Daphne&Velma

Daphne and Velma

Directed By: Suzie Yoonessi
Starring: Sarah Jeffrey, Sarah Gillman, Vanessa Marano, Courtney Dietz, Stephen Ruffin, Evan Castelloe, Arden Myrin, et.al.
Rated: G
Grade: B

Daphne Blake, an alien-obsessed internet conspiracy blogger, moves with her family to Ridge Valley, which is where Daphne’s cyber BFF, Velma Dinkley happens to reside. However, upon arriving in Ridge Valley, Daphne discovers that Vlema isn’t interested in taking their friendship to the real world, but when strange things start happening to the top students at Ridge Valley High, Daphne and Velma put aside their differences in an attempt to track down the culprit.

As far as Scooby-Doo related movies go, this one is fairly standard. Focusing on Daphne and Velma, the movie takes places before the events of any other Scooby-Doo movie. For some reason, it doesn’t seem strange that a pretty, outgoing, rich girl would want to be friends with a self-imposed loner doing her best to look as average as possible, though this may just be because of familiarity with the source materials. The story-line, someone draining teens minds for fresh new ideas, actually seems plausible, especially in today’s society of rapidly-evolving technology. Jeffrey and Gillman have a decent chemistry, and making Daphne actually intelligent differs from recent portrayals of her being nothing more than a bimbo who’s only good at getting kidnapped by the bad guy. Since these movies are more story-driven, the writing is decent. Not too much of the dialogue seems forced, and while there are a few implausible situations they’re handled well.

There aren’t too many effects in the movie. There’s a few instances of advanced/futuristic technology, and they don’t look too bad. Everything else is background filler and not noticeable.

This is one of your typical kids movies. It’s fun and enjoyable, even if your older than the target audience, and if your kids are unfamiliar with Scooby-Doo, this would be a fun way to introduce them to the franchise. It’s worth a rental, at the very least.

Daphne and Velma is not 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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Hurricane Heist

HurricaneHeist

The Hurricane Heist

Directed By: Rob Cohen
Starring: Maggie Grace, Ryan Kwanten, Toby Kebbell, Ralph Ineson, Melissa Bolona, James Cutler, Christian Contreras, et.al.
Rated: PG-13
Grade: C+

As a hurricane bears down on a Gulf Coast town in Alabama, a group of criminals decide to rob a facility that destroys old currency. However, they weren’t planning on the storm knocking out the facilities main power, or needing an entry code for the vault that only Casey, the treasury department driver who brings in the old currency, has. Upon learning that the facility is being robbed, Casey teams up with a local meteorologist, who happens to be the brother of the man brought in to fix the generators, and tries to stop the theft.

If nothing else, Rob Cohen movies are a good way block out the problems of the world for 90 minutes. While there does seem to be some thought put into the script, much of the movie is just action scenes piled on top of each other, with small respites for bits of character building. After playing the perpetual victim in the Taken trilogy, Maggie Grace appears to be attempting to rectify that image by taking on more roles as of late where she plays action-oriented characters who are capable of handling themselves. Ryan Kwanten does okay as Breeze, the repairman brought in to fix the facility’s generator, though his accent slips a couple of times to let his natural Australian one through. The characters all seem to work well together, and the actors all have a decent chemistry. The action scenes are interesting enough and there are enough of them that it keeps things rolling.

The effects aren’t too bad. Most of it relies on creating the titular hurricane and related weather atmosphere. There are no noticeable explosions, or at least none worth remembering.

As far as disaster flicks go, this one’s not too bad. It’s probably one that you wouldn’t mind watching more than once, so it’s worth the money to rent, or even buy.

The Hurricane Heist is not 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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The Bronze

Bronze

The Bronze

Directed By: Bryan Buckley
Starring: Melissa Rauch, Gary Cole, Sebastian Stan, Haley Lu Richardson, Thomas Middleditch, Cecily Armstrong, et.al.
Rated: R
Grade: A-

After winning an Olympic bronze medal on a torn Achilles tendon, gymnast Hope Ann Greggory coasts through life on her one moment of glory, living in her father’s home and getting free food and swag from local businesses. After her old coach dies, Hope receives a letter stating that if she helps local up and comer Maggie Townsend get to the Olympics herself, she’ll receive a hefty inheritance.

For all its raunchy comedy, The Bronze actually had a rather sweet story about growing up, and how early fame can affect people’s lives. Hope’s inner conflict about training Maggie, who could potentially take the small-town spotlight away from her, is used wonderfully to show her character growth, and Rauch adds a depth to Hope, showing her to be a sad, albeit spoiled, woman who had trouble moving on after her childhood dreams were crushed by career-ending injuries. Gary Cole’s doting dad, who just wants his little girl to be happy, perfectly plays the former sports-parent who goes a little overboard in protecting their child from the sadness and pain of losing a dream, and who finally realizes that they should have made their child grow up sooner than they did. Sebastian Stan, the closest this film has to a villain, plays the slick, calculating Lance Tucker, whose main goal seems to be to simply ruining as much of Hope’s life as he can after she stole his thunder at the Olympics all those years before.

There are no obvious special effects in the movie, with only background filler being used.

The Bronze is a good movie, and worth your time to see. The plot is a little thin, and the ending is predictable, but none of that detracts from one’s overall enjoyment of it. It’s also one that doesn’t start to grate on repeated viewings, so it’s worth the money to rent, or even buy.

The Bronze is not 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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Sherlock Gnomes

SherlockGnomes

Sherlock Gnomes

Directed By: John Stevenson
Starring: James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Johnny Depp, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Caine, Maggie Smith, Ozzy Osbourne, Jamie Demetriou, Matt Lucas, Ashley Jensen, Mary J. Blige, et.al.
Rated: PG
Grade: B-

Shortly after moving to Central London, Gnomeo and Juliet’s relationship starts to falter under the pressure of becoming their parents’ successors as the head gnomes of the garden. However, after the other gnomes are taken by an unknown entity, they team up with Sherlock Gnomes and Dr. Watson, who are investigating the disappearance as one of several they believe to be work of the evil Moriarty.

Sherlock Gnomes, a follow-up to Gnomeo and Juliet, isn’t quite as charming as its predecessor, but does have some merits of its own. Most of the voice cast from the original movie return for the sequel, with the exception of one or two characters who aren’t given any speaking lines, or who just don’t appear at all. And, where the original was an adaptation of Shakepseare’s Romeo and Juliet, this movie is adapting one of the stories of Sherlock Holmes, likely The Final Problem. The actual storyline is fairly decent, and the writers manage to mesh together characters from two different authors pretty well. That said, this movie will probably appeal more to kids than it will adults, and it’s a good way to introduce them to classic literature without boring them, though adults aren’t likely to be bored to tears while watching it, as with some children’s movies. It’s actually fairly entertaining, even if it does dwell on certain plot points longer than it should.

The movie is computer animated, and very well done. Some of the scenery almost looks real, even with the talking gnomes present.

Sherlock Gnomes is an fairly decent movie. The storyline doesn’t require very much attention, but it doesn’t over simplify, either, which is easy to do with kids movies. If you enjoyed the first movie, you’ll probably enjoy this one, too. It’s a good way to take your mind off of the world for 80 minutes, and you won’t get mad at yourself for paying the rental price, or even buying it if it’s cheap enough.

Sherlock Gnomes is not 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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Pacific Rim Uprising

PacificRimUprising

Pacific Rim: Uprising

Directed By: Steven S. DeKnight
Starring: John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Cailee Spaeny, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, Tian Jing, Jin Zhang, Adria Aronja, Rinko Kikuchi, et. al.
Rated: PG-13
Grade: B-

It’s been ten years since the breach that allowed the Kaiju to invade Earth was closed, and as the world attempts to recover, a dangerous new threat arises and once again puts everyone in danger. Fighting this threat are Jake Pentecost, son of Stacker from the first movie, Nate Lambert, and returning characters Hermann Gottlieb, Newton Geiszler, and Mako Mori, as well as a group of new cadets.

Uprising, while a decent follow-up to its predecessor, it tends to fall short on many of the points where the original succeeded. The sense of danger and urgency the original held doesn’t quite manifest in this sequel, with much of the storyline dedicated to the training of young new Jaeger pilots. The rest of the plot seems to deal with the corporatization of the Jaeger program, though it does help to introduce the villain of this particular movie, who is a human instead of a parallel-dimension entity. The actor who plays the bad guy does a good job with handling the near-schizophrenic condition they’ve given themself in the ten years between when the movies take place. The other actors do well with their roles as well. Gorman and Day have a type of childlike glee in playing their scientist characters. Boyega, who takes over as narrator/main character seems to have found his niche in sci-fi action movies between Pacific Rim and Star Wars. Eastwood seems to be one of those actors who can look comfortable in just about any role they take on, and he holds his own with the material here.

The special effects are top notch, with the Jaegers and Kaiju looking amazingly realistic. There are also plenty of explosions and fight scenes, with one Japanese city, I think Tokyo, getting nearly destroyed in the process. There’s also some displays of near-future technology.

Pacific Rim: Uprising is an okay movie. The storyline doesn’t required loads of attention, but it’s also not overly simplistic. If you liked the first movie, you’ll probably enjoy this one, even if it’s just for the popcorn quality, and you probably won’t get mad at yourself for paying the rental price, or even buying it if it’s cheap enough.

Pacific Rim: Uprising is not 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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Rough Night

RoughNight

Rough Night

Directed By: Lucia Anellio
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Jillian Bell, Zoe Kravitz, Ilana Galzer, Kate McKinnon, Paul W. Downs, Ty Burrell, Demi Moore, et. al.
Rated: R
Grade: C

Five friends get together for a bachelorette weekend in Miami. Just as the night is getting started, however, they accidentally kill the stripper hired for the party, and spend the rest of the night attempting to cover it up. All the while, their friendships are tested and truths are brought to light.

As hard as it tries, Rough Night just isn’t that funny. The moments that are supposed to show the women as wild and/or quirky, but mostly they come off as immature. Despite the fact that the actresses have a decent chemistry, most of the humor falls flat, especially since the characters are supposed to be in their 30s at the time. The few humorous moments that do appear are mostly courtesy of Kate McKinnon, who seems to be one of the few bright spots in the movie since she puts her all into her role. Scarlett Johansson, for all of her dramatic and action talents, doesn’t handle the comedy well, and she and Zoe Kravitz seem to wish they were anywhere but in the movie. Ty Burrell and Demi Moore phone in their performances as the oversexed, open-marriage neighbors, and seem to have put the majority of their time into making the other actors as uncomfortable as possible.

There are no obvious special effects in the movie, with most of it being used as background filler.

Unfortunately, Rough Night isn’t very good. It got a few bonus points for Kate McKinnon’s performance, and a sweet side story involving the main character and her fiancee, who mishears part of a phone call and, thinking she wants to break up, rushes down to Miami to win her back. However, it’s still not quite enough to warrant spending a significant amount of money on this one.

Rough Night is not 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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Girls Trip

GirlsTrip

Girls Trip

Directed By: Malcolm D. Lee
Starring: Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Tiffany Haddish, Mike Colter, Larenz Tate, Kate Walsh, et. al.
Rated: R
Grade: A

When four estranged friends reunite for a weekend trip to New Orleans during the Essence Festival, they rediscover their old wild ways, and attempt to strengthen their failing friendships. Also on the trip, they discover new love, and find out that their lives and the lives of their friends aren’t as perfect as they seem.

Girls Trip is one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in a while. The comedy tends to shift between physical, situational, and actual jokes. Everyone handles the comedy well, and the actresses who play the four main characters have a decent chemistry. Tiffany Haddish definitely stands out, though. She has great comic timing, and manages to pull off some of the more outrageous comedic moments. There are a couple moments of bathroom humor, but the movie manages to avoid it for the most part. There’s also a little drama added in, and it works well for the storyline, with the more emotional, dramatic moments evening out the general, overall humor used.

There are no obvious special effects in the movie, with the most noticeable instances used in a couple of concert scenes, with the rest used as background filler.

Anyone looking for a laugh should like Girls Trip. The story is incredibly well done, and the actors all work well together. It doesn’t require much attention to follow the storyline, but it should hold your attention anyway.

Girls Trip is not 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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Lady Bird

LadyBird

Lady Bird

Directed By: Greta Gerwig
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Lois Smith, et. al.
Rated: R
Grade: A

Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson wants nothing more than to be extraordinary and live a life filled with adventure, glamour, and art. Unfortunately, she feels like the way she’ll achieve that is to leave her hometown of Sacramento as soon as she graduates high school in the fall. She spends most of her senior year trying to figure out how to go to one of her dream colleges on the East Coast while attempting to navigate her family and friendships.

Lady Bird is an honest, earnest coming of age story told beautifully through the eyes of Saoirse Ronan’s titular character. A perfectly imperfect typical teenager, Lady Bird is selfish, self-centered, a bit more than slightly rebellious, and nowhere near as cool as she wants to be. Setting the movie in 2002 is a bit odd, especially since there wasn’t anything particularly special about that year, but it doesn’t detract from the story in anyway. It’s not really noticeable until you start hearing outdated songs since hair and clothing styles haven’t changed all that much since then. The acting is superb. Ronan perfectly captures that teenage desire to be accepted by everyone while trying to behave like she’s above it all, and Metcalf’s loving exasperation is spot on.

There are no obvious special effects in the movie, just typical background filler.

If you don’t mind a slow drama, then you’ll probably like Lady Bird. The story is incredibly well done, and the actors all work well together. And, while it doesn’t necessarily require a lot of attention to follow the storyline, it’s compelling enough that it grabs your attention anyway.

Lady Bird is available to stream with an Amazon Prime account, and it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

Winchester

Winchester

Winchester

Directed By: Michael Spierig & Peter Spierig
Starring: Helen Mirren, Jason Clarke, Sarah Snook, Finn Scicluna-O’Prey, Tyler Coppin, et. al.
Rated: R
Grade: B-

Loosely based on the story of Sarah Winchester, who believed so firmly that her family was being haunted by the victims of the Winchester rifles, that she bought a house in California and had 24/7 construction done on it from the day she moved in until the day she died. In this movie, the firearms company board sends Dr. Eric Price to evaluate her mental stability and determine whether she is fit to maintain her seat on the board. Shortly after arriving, Dr. Price learns that there is more truth to Sarah’s beliefs than he originally thought.

More of a dramatic thriller than a horror movie, Winchester is spooky at times, with a few genuine jump scares. The real Winchester house is fascinating in and of itself, so I found that aspect interesting. The reasons behind the constant building and rebuilding (constructing the rooms where people were killed with Winchester rifles and tearing them down once the spirits have passed on) was one of the main plot points, which focused on a particularly vengeful spirit wanting to end the Winchester legacy. I actually found the dramatic bits more interesting than the horror aspect. The history behind the house is a point of interest, but the movie doesn’t have the time to delve into just how oddly-constructed the house was.

The effects are fairly decent, mostly dealing with creating ghostly effects, and haunting-type imagery, none of which are too terribly obvious as CGI and/or practical effects.

Winchester should appeal to anyone who enjoys dramatic horror movies, and doesn’t strictly watch horror for blood and gore. If a lack of gratuitous death scenes is a nonstarter, then you may want to avoid this movie. It’s not a bad movie to watch, but it’s also not fantastic either. It serves its purpose as a not-too-scary scary movie that one can enjoy with popcorn on a Sunday afternoon.

Winchester 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.