Terminator Genisys

terminatorgenisys

Terminator: Genisys

Directed By: Alan Taylor
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, Jason Clarke, Matt Smith, J.K. Simmons, Dayo Okeniyi, Courtney B. Vance, Byung-Hun Lee, Sandrine Holt, Michael Gladis, et.al.
Rated: PG-13
Grade: C

After helping John Connor defeat Skynet once and for all, Kyle Reese is sent back in time to protect John’s mother, Sarah, from a Terminator sent to kill John before he can be born. However, while Kyle is being transported, John is attacked, and the past that Kyle is sent to leads to a different future than the one he originally came from. Teaming up with a battle-ready Sarah Connor and the Terminator sent to protect her after her parents were killed in an earlier attack, Kyle directs them to 2017, the year that Judgment Day is now set to take place. Aided by a police officer who witnessed an attack on Kyle by a T-1000, they attempt to put a stop to Skynet once and for all, and put history back into place.

This reboot of the popular franchise isn’t necessarily bad, per se, but it’s not great, either. Despite getting James Cameron’s seal of approval before its release, poor critical and fan reviews all but ensured the planned trilogy wouldn’t be fully realized. The storyline itself is interesting, and puts a different spin on the What-Ifs of previous sequels. Another ding on the movie is the fact that the two leads don’t have the chemistry of their predecessors, and come off as if they’re playing against a sibling rather than a soulmate. Other than that, the actors seem to work well together, and Jason Clarke looks reasonably like someone who could be a child of Emilia Clarke (no relation) and Jai Courtney. This movie may have actually faired better had a large plot twist not been spoiled by the trailers and posters for the movie, which turned off a number of fans and potential moviegoers. Had that not happened, the movie itself may have been better received, and potentially been able to play out the 3-movie arc that was originally planned.

The special effects are all well done. In addition to explosions and bullet strikes, there are also some CGI graphics. Since the movie was meant to be seen in 3D, there are also some effects that would have added depth to the scenes. All background filler is unnoticeable.

Anyone looking for a decent sci-fi/action movie would probably enjoy this, so long as they’re not huge fans of the original. All in all, it’s a rather harmless way to burn a couple of hours, and viewers don’t need to pay much attention to the plot once the ball gets rolling.

Terminator: Genisys isn’t available free 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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Discovery of Witches Season 1

discoveryofwitchess1

A Discovery of Witches: Season 1

Starring: Matthew Goode, Teresa Palmer, Valerie Pettiford, Malin Buksa, Owen Teale, Edward Bluemel, Aiysha Hart, Alex Kingston, Greg Chillin, Trevor Eve, et.al.
Rating: TV-MA
Network: SkyOne/Sundance
Grade: A
Diana Bishop, a witch descended from a powerful line, travels to Oxford as a guest lecturer and to continue her research into history and alchemy for an upcoming academic papers she’s writing.  While there, she comes across a book called Ashmole 782, which, unbeknownst to her, has been missing for centuries.  After receiving a powerful burst of magic from the book, creatures around the world (witches, vampires, and daemons) all felt the strange burst and many become determined to figure out where it came from and why.  Among them is Matthew Clairmont, a vampire and professor of Biochemistry at Oxford, who begins following Diana in order to learn how she was able to summon the book and persuade her to do it again.  However, the more time they spend together, the harder it becomes to deny their growing attraction, which would be a violation of Conclave Law, as well as Diana’s growing power.  As more and more creatures seek out Diana for the knowledge they believe she possesses, she and Matthew fight not only to protect their lives, but their love as well, and attempt to unravel the secret behind the missing text and what it means for the future of the creature species.
I’m a bit of a sucker for fantasy, so this immediately appealed to me.  Not only was the storyline compelling, but it wasn’t completely outside the realm of possibility.  I have yet to read the book series it’s based on, but based on what little I’ve read, the show is a fairly faithful adaptation of the first book.  The acting is well done, and Goode and Palmer have excellent chemistry.  A handful of the actors use accents that aren’t their own, but they do a fairly good job of it.  Although it was a bit disconcerting for me to hear actors I know to be British speaking with an American accent.  While most of the show was filmed in Wales, there were some scenes filmed in England and Italy, which added some nice touches of realism.
The special effects were all well done, and any background filler wasn’t noticeable.
While not all of the creature abilities are outlined, it doesn’t detract much from the storyline, as some things can be surmised just by watching the show and others are likely to be explained in upcoming seasons.  It’s a serialized show, so you do need to pay a little bit of attention, and there is a large, prevalent romantic story so anyone who doesn’t enjoy romance mixed with their adventure stories may not like that aspect of the show.
A Discovery of Witches is only available to stream from SkyOne in the UK and Sundance/Shudder in the US, with no word as to whether or not they plan to make it available on video.
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Venom

venom

Venom

Directed By: Ruben Fleischer
Starring: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Jenny Slate, Scott Haze, Reid Scott, Melora Walters, Peggy Lu, et. al.
Rated: PG-13
Grade: B

Shortly after a space shuttle operated by the Life Foundation crashed to earth and resulted in the deaths of the onboard crew, investigative reporter Eddie Brock is granted an interview with the Foundation’s CEO, Carlton Drake. Despite being told by his boss not to mention the crash, Eddie uses inside information he found on his fiancé’s computer to corner Drake, which results in Eddie losing both his job and his fiancé. Six months later, Eddie is still unemployed since he was effectively blackballed as a reporter due to the Drake incident and is barely managing to keep his life together. One day, however, he’s approached by Dr. Dora Skirth, a colleague of Carlton Drake’s, who informs Eddie that Drake recovered alien life from an asteroid before the shuttle crash, and has been performing human experiments in an attempt to create hybridized life forms with the beings Drake calls Symbiotes. After Skirth sneaks Eddie into the Life Foundation labs, Eddie becomes infected with a Symbiote calling itself Venom, and the two team up to stop Drake, who was infected with the only other remaining Symbiote, Riot, from bringing the rest of the Symbiote race to Earth, which would result in mankind being wiped out.

Based on the comic book character, who was introduced as a villain in the Spider-Man comics, Venom, according to some of what I’ve read, picks up after the character is given its own line of comics and is turned into more of an antihero. The movie itself is pretty good. As I’m not overly-familiar with comic books, I was only aware of Venom as a straight-up villain, so seeing him in the hero role took a little getting used to. The actors all do well, and Tom Hardy gets to show off his comedic skills with a bit of physical comedy. He also does a good job of portraying someone who isn’t completely in control of their own body in the scenes where Venom first makes himself known. Riz Ahmed seems to enjoy playing the bad guy and he makes you believe that the character thinks what they’re doing is right.

The effects are well done. The alien visages look a little off at times, but until the end fight scene, you don’t see them enough for it to matter, and the background filler isn’t noticeable.

Comic book fans should enjoy this. Despite some scathing critical reviews, the movie isn’t bad at all. It peppers in just enough humor to keep it from being melodramatic, but takes itself seriously enough to not be farcical. And, while it’s not a backdoor entry into the MCU, as many had hoped, it holds it’s own and creates an interesting universe nonetheless.

Venom is currently not available free to stream, 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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Hell Fest

hellfest

Hell Fest

Directed By: Gregory Plotkin
Starring: Amy Forsyth, Reign Edwards, Bex Taylor-Klaus, Roby Attal, Christian James, Matt Mercurio, Stephen Conroy, Tony Todd, et. al.
Rated: R
Grade: B+

After returning to her hometown Natalie learns that her best friend, Brooke, has gotten tickets to a traveling horror-themed amusement park for the two of them, as well as Taylor, Brooke’s roommate, Asher and Quinn, Taylor and Brooke’s boyfriends, and Gavin, a boy Natalie has a crush on, to attend on Halloween night. When the group arrives at the park, they enter a haunted house and the girls end up getting separated from the boys. While searching for a way out, another attendee runs across them and claims that a killer is chasing her. When a masked man approaches looking for the girl, they direct him to where the girl is hiding, since they believe it to be part of the entertainment. However, as the night progresses, Natalie starts to notice the same man following her and her friends throughout the park, and becomes concerned when one of their group seems to go missing. Simply believing her to be paranoid, her friends brush her off until they realize that it’s too late and their lives are in real danger.

While I’m not completely jaded to horror movies, this one was interesting to watch in that it had a more original concept. Despite safety regulations, traveling carnivals and theme parks have long had sketchy reputations, and the movie outright plays into the theory that serial killers stalk through these places looking for victims. The acting is well done, and the actors are all have decent chemistry and make believable friends/couples.

The majority of the movie takes place at night, and most of the effects are practical. What few non-practical effects there are were well done, and the background filler isn’t noticed.

Anyone who likes horror movies should enjoy this one. There are some genuine scares and tense moments. One or two of the death scenes were a little much for me, but it was only the manner in which they were killed that bothered me, and not the amount of blood/gore involved.

Hell Fest is currently not available free to stream, 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 Spy Who Dumped Me

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The Spy Who Dumped Me

Directed By: Susanna Fogel
Starring: Mila Kunis, Kate McKinnon, Justin Theroux, Sam Hueghan, Gillian Anderson, Lolly Adefope, Ivanna Sakhno, Hasan Minhaj, Jane Curtin, Paul Reiser, et. al.
Rated: R
Grade: B-

After being unceremoniously dumped by her boyfriend of nearly a year, Audrey lets her best friend, Morgan, talk her into getting rid of the things Drew left behind by burning them. After Morgan, as Audrey, texts Drew to let him know of their plans, he finally returns her messages by asking that she not destroy his things, and that he’ll be there the next day to retrieve them. Before Audrey can meet up with Drew, she is approached by Sebastian, who claims that both he and Drew are secret agents. When she finally meets up with Drew, Audrey asks Drew what’s going on, and he confirms that he works for the CIA, and tells her that one of the items she almost burned contained information relevant to national security, and asks her to help him deliver it to the proper people. However, before the plan can be fully set, Drew is killed by rival spies, which throws Audrey and Morgan into a dangerous, trans-European adventure where they can never be sure just who they can trust.

This was a fun movie to watch. With the recent trend of female-centric buddy/action comedies, it was only a matter of time before spy movies were spoofed. The acting is pretty good, given the material, and the fact that most of the actors play their characters straight not only adds to the comedic situations, but also helps in showing how out of their depths Audrey and Morgan are as the story progresses. Only Kate McKinnon, who plays Morgan, tends to ham it up and chew some of the scenery, but it doesn’t detract from the overall experience.

The effects are all well done. There isn’t much beyond bullet strikes and a couple of explosions, and the background filler isn’t noticeable.

As stated before, this is a fun movie. Anyone looking for a laugh should enjoy it. It may be a little violent for some, and there’s a brief instance of full (male) nudity, so the R rating it earned in that respect.

The Spy Who Dumped Me is currently not available free to stream, 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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Wrinkle In Time

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A Wrinkle in Time

Directed By: Ava DuVernay
Starring: Storm Reid, Levi Miller, Deric McCabe, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Oprah Winfrey, Chris Pine, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Peña, Zach Galifianakis, et. al.
Rated: PG
Grade: C

Four years after the sudden disappearance of her scientist father, Dr. Alex Murry, Meg is still deeply affected by his absence. One night, a strange woman calling herself Mrs. Whatsit that her brother, Charles Wallace, claims to know appears in her family’s living room and tells them all that Dr. Murry’s theories about tesseracts are correct before disappearing again. The next day, Charles Wallace brings Meg and a classmate of hers, Calvin O’Keefe, to meet another strange woman, Mrs. Who, in a seemingly dilapidated house. After learning that they are meant to be warriors of light and to embark on a journey to find Meg’s father, they meet Mrs. Which in the Murry’s backyard, who tessers them to a distant planet to begin the journey to find Dr. Murray and defeat the darkness, called the It, which is rising in the universe and trying to destroy all light.

First things first, I haven’t read the Madeline L’Engle book that this movie is based on. Though, from the few things I’ve skimmed, that may be a bit of a blessing. I am largely unaware of the changes made from the source material, and therefore can’t comment on them. One thing I did notice was how off the pacing was. The movie seemed to go from 0 to 100 without allowing the story to progress naturally. It seemed that they wanted to get to the search for Meg’s dad as quickly as possible, and would then back-fill as they deemed fit in oddly-placed flashbacks. The story itself seemed to have potential (I’ll have to obtain a copy of the book to read), and the acting was decent. I’m not a huge fan of Oprah Winfrey, but she wasn’t in enough of the movie for it to make much of a difference in my opinion. The acting was pretty good, and the actors playing the kids will probably do well in the future.

The effects are all well done. The alien worlds have brilliant colors that contrast nicely with the somewhat muted colors shown on Earth. The background filler is unnoticeable.

As long as you haven’t read the book, I’m sure that this movie is at least tolerable. As stated before, the storyline has potential and the visuals are interesting to look at. Younger children would like it, and if they really want to see it, it would probably be worth it to rent.

A Wrinkle in Time is currently available free to stream through Netflix, and it can be also rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Best of 2018

That Girl’s Favorite Views of 2018

Since the new year is upon us, it was suggested to me that I give a list of my favorite movies from the last reviewing year. At first I was worried that it would be all super hero movies, then I started to think some more, and realized that wasn’t true. I mean, I probably could make a list of entirely super hero movies. I certainly watched enough of them to do so, but that wouldn’t be much fun.

10) Baywatch

A farcical take on the corny 90s TV franchise, in which head lifeguard Mitch Buchanan attempts to stop a drug smuggler with his co-workers, knows how ridiculous it is and runs off with it. With nearly every actor engaging in over-the-top scenery chewing, it’s easy to tell that everyone had a blast making this movie. It’s a solid B-grade, so-bad-it’s-good way to spend a couple of hours.

9) Game Night

This movie about a staged kidnapping for a game night between friends that turns into an actual kidnapping is a real, and funny, take on a ‘What If’ scenario that manages to balance out the humor of the plot with the sometimes grave circumstances the characters get into. The storyline is solid and enjoyable, and the laughs are plentiful.

8) Thor: Ragnarock

The most recent, and possibly final, movie in Thor’s MCU franchise sees the God of Thunder losing his father, his hammer, and his home when his previously unmentioned sister, Hela, escapes from the prison she had been kept in for millennia. Despite the dour plotline, this is easily the best, and funniest, movie featuring Thor. It’s nice to see the actors be able to loosen up a bit, and makes for palate cleanser to watch before Infinity Wars.

7) Ocean’s 8

In this gender-flipped sequel to popular Ocean’s Twelve reboot franchise we find Debbie, the sister of recently deceased Danny Ocean planning to steal an expensive, one of a kind necklace off a starlet at the annual Met Gala. While the actual plot may run a little thin, it’s still an entertaining take that breathes a little bit of new life into the franchise.

6) Deadpool 2

The sequel to the 2016 movie finds Wade Wilson adrift after the tragic death of his fiancé, Vanessa, briefly teaming up with the X-Men, and eventually forming the group X-Force in order to save a young mutant destined to become super villain. Just as funny as the original, but with a more cohesive story, this sequel is a great follow-up and adds a few more characters to the mix that should be fun to explore in future installments.

5) Coco

This beautifully animated tale of a young boy who wants to follow his passion for music so badly he risks going to the spirit world to gain approval from the man he believes to be his long-lost great grandfather is heartfelt and touching. One of Disney/Pixar’s best movies to day, and also the first to center on Mexican heritage, this movie manages to both educate and entertaining viewers of all backgrounds.

4) Girls Trip

Four college friends decide to have a no-holds-barred, ladies-only trip to New Orleans during the Essence Festival, where one of the women is scheduled to speak, in an attempt to rekindle their strained friendship. This was a fun, funny movie with a storyline that’s nearly universally interesting (if you like slightly-raunchy comedies).

3) Black Panther

Newly crowned King of Wakanda, T’Challa attempts to locate and bring to justice Ulysses Klaue, who killed several Wakandans and robbed the country of some of its main resource, Vibranium, and in the process runs across Erik Stevens, a long-lost cousin who’s come home to claim the throne for himself. This movie is part of the new standard for super hero movies. It’s a great storyline, and has fantastic actors. It’s also the first major super hero movie to feature an all-black main cast.

2) Avengers: Infinity War

In an attempt to bring balance to the universe, Thanos attempts to collect all of the Infinity Stones, which will make him the most powerful being in the universe, but his plans are complicated when some of the galaxy’s greatest heroes attempt to thwart him. This movie, which marks the beginning of the end for the current era of the MCU, is a nonstop ride filled with adventure, heart, and nearly every hero we’d been introduced to up to that point.

1) Annihilation

A team of five women, a mix of scientists and military personnel, enter into a pocket alien world sitting on the United States’ east coast, and soon find that the further they travel into the area, the more dangerous and unusual things become. This taught, sci-fi thriller may not have the humor or adventure of some of the others on this list, but the almost relentless storytelling and superb acting by the cast make this an unforgettable film that’s worth the time and effort to see.

What were your favorite movies of 2018? Comment share what you loved.

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Stephanie

Stephanie

Stephanie

Directed By: Akiva Goldsman
Starring: Shree Crooks, Frank Grillo, Anna Torv, Jonah Beres, LaSaundra Gibson, Samantha Smith
Rated: R
Grade: B-

Seemingly abandoned after a strange global crisis and the death of her older brother, young Stephanie is doing her best to survive, despite the malevolent force that seems to be targeting her home. On the brink of giving up completely, her parents suddenly reappear and apologize for leaving her alone for so long. Still worried about the force that stalks their home, her father begins building a fence to surround the yard, and her brother’s decaying body is finally buried in the orchard beyond. Although things seem to be returning to normal, the force continues to appear. After a particularly violent attack, it’s revealed that Stephanie herself is the source of the chaos. After desperately trying to save their daughter, they run out of options and make one last attempt to stop the thing controlling her.

This locked room thriller, in which a stuffed turtle named Francis gets more screen time than the actors playing Stephanie’s parents, manages to remain interesting despite the fact that the first 20 minutes or so is showing Stephanie going about daily routines in her attempt to survive long enough for her parents to return. Shree Crooks does a wonderful job with the material, and she handles the range of emotions well. The actors playing her parents have a decent chemistry, though the movie doesn’t dedicate much time to exploring it since their return marks ramp up in the action and story progress. The story itself is interesting with a decent twist.

Most of the effects seem to be done practically, with CGI being used sparingly. What little CGI is used seems to be well done, and the background filler isn’t very noticeable.

Fans of thriller movies should enjoy this. There isn’t a lot of gore or language, so the rating is mostly for the intense sequences and some violence towards the end. Anyone who enjoys horror/thrillers wouldn’t be disappointed to spend the money to buy or rent this, and it should hold up for repeated viewings.

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

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House With a Clock in Its Walls

HouseWithClock

The House With a Clock in Its Walls

Directed By: Eli Roth
Starring: Jack Black, Cate Blanchette, Owen Vaccaro, Kyle McLaughlin, Renée Elise Goldberry, Colleen Camp, Sunny Suljic, Vanessa Ann Williams, Lorenza Izzo, et. al.
Rated: PG
Grade: A-

After his parents die in a tragic accident, 10 year old Lewis Barnavelt is sent to live with his eccentric Uncle Jonathan in New Zebedee, Michigan. Upon arriving in his uncle’s house, Lewis begins noticing strange things, like a stained glass window that keeps changing, and his uncle wandering around the halls at night knocking on walls. Unable to keep the secret from Lewis much longer, Jonathan admits that he and his neighbor, Florence Zimmerman, are a warlock and a witch, respectively, and that the house Jonathan is living in once belonged to an evil warlock named Isaac Izard who built a clock inside the house as part of a plan to destroy the world. Desperate to fit in at his new school, Lewis tells a popular boy about the magic in the house, and in an attempt to keep the boy’s favor, casts a dangerous spell with dire consequences.

Although based on a series of children’s books, the movie definitely doesn’t pander to children, which likely has something to do with the fact that the director, Eli Roth, normally makes horror films. The acting is well done, and you can tell that the older actors are having fun. The younger actors hold their own against their more experienced counterparts. The story itself is interesting and manages to keep pace throughout the run time.

The effects are all well done, and seem to be a mix of CGI and practical. The background filler is well done also, and isn’t glaringly obvious.

This is a movie that should appeal to most ages. Some of the parts may be a bit too much for small children, and those without a sense of whimsy may find it to be ham-handed to be worth their time. It may not have quite the scope and spectacle of Harry Potter, but it has potential and room to grow.

The House With a Clock in Its Walls isn’t available free 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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Outlander

OutlanderMovie

Outlander

Directed By: Howard McCain
Starring: Jim Caviezel, Sophia Myles, Jack Huston, John Hurt, Cliff Saunders, Aidan Devine, Patrick Stevenson, Ron Perlman, John Nelles, James Preston Rogers, et. al.
Rated: R
Grade: B+

When his ship crash lands on Earth in Iron Age Norway, Kainan, a soldier from a distant planet, attempts to find the creature he was chasing so he can kill it once and for all. However, when a local tribe of Vikings believe Kainan to be responsible for a spat of recent killings, they capture him and hold him prisoner. In an attempt to gain their allegiance, Kainan tells Hrothgar, their king, Freya, his daughter, and Wulfric, their military leader, that he is from a distant island to the far North, and that the creature responsible for the killings is a Moorwen, a fire-breathing animal that is nearly indestructible. Slowly gaining their trust, Kainan convinces them to fight alongside him to destroy the creature and protect their village.

Despite the title, this movie has nothing to do with the wildly popular television series or the books it’s based upon. Originally conceived as an update to the Beowulf legend, Outlander is a surprisingly interesting sci-fi action movie that manages to include both futuristic technology and a period setting. It’s also not predictable to the point where the main hero is guaranteed to survive through the end of the movie. The acting itself is alright and the actors all seem to work well together. The story is also relatively simple to follow, and remains engaging.

The creature effects have held up surprisingly well over the years. There’s nothing too obvious that would date it. The background filler is also well done and not too obvious.

Fans of action movies should enjoy this, since the sci-fi elements aren’t too overwhelming. The story is interesting and, as stated before, it relatively easy to follow. It’s definitely worth the cost of a rental, especially if you’re a fan of the genre.

Outlander isn’t available free 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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