Spoilers

Sometimes when re-watching movies later in life, the movie is better on the second viewing. Other times it seems worse, or at least dated. When I re-watched The Sixth Sense for the first time in 18 years, I found it to be exactly the way I remembered it to be, which was very good. It’s got the star power of Bruce Willis, a rare great child performance courtesy of a then entirely-unknown Haley Joel Osment and an academy award winning performance from a then-relatively-unknown Toni Collette. It’s too bad Olivia Williams character couldn’t be in it more, because she was great as well.

My biggest problem with this movie at the time was the twist ending. I didn’t buy it at all at the time, but I was one of the rare people who thought the movie was great despite not buying the ending. Of course, when re-watching it, I was on the lookout for clues to the twist, and found some that I didn’t see at the time, including some references from Cole (Osment), which seemed to indicate he was aware Dr. Crowe (Willis) was a ghost the entire time. But, I still feel Dr. Crowe getting shot towards the beginning of the film followed by a cut to a scene that begins with “The Next Fall” showing him seemingly alive and well was cheap and ruined the twist, something I said at the time following the movie. “The Next Fall” established that a significant amount of time had passed and seemed like a lame trick to play on the audience when coupled with him looking up items in his office at home, among other things. Was it foreshadowing when Shyamalan had Dr. Crowe do his lame trick with the penny, something another kid later said was flat-out stupid?

I also noted that about 50 minutes elapsed before Cole specifically states he sees “dead people” with a lot of character development and slow-burn buildup before the real scares get started. And the real scares are actual scares because there haven’t been any really cheap jump scare items before that point. While it’s not “the scariest movie of all time”, as the marketing put it, it is an effectively scary movie thanks to the character development, slow burn of the first half, and excellent direction from M. Night Shyamalan.

As for Shyamalan, this movie made him a household name with audiences expecting a similarly great movie with a twist from each subsequent movie from him. His subsequent movies then divided audiences, likely because of this expectation. I felt Unbreakable was rather boring, while it spoke directly to some people’s hearts – those people will love the fact that Shyamalan is making a sequel to it titled Glass. I enjoyed Signs, although I felt the same as many others at the time when it was revealed that the aliens had invaded a planet made of 70% water while being aquaphobic. Later, very solid-sounding theories seemed to indicate that they were demons, not aliens and that the water left around the house by the smallest child was actually holy water.

I felt The Village and Lady in the Water were weak and generally tuned out of Shyamalan movies after The Happening, which was an interesting premise, but poorly executed. I later saw Devil, which was written by Shyamalan, but not directed, and felt it was halfway decent. I would like to see Split, but haven’t yet. The Sixth Sense remains the best of his films that I’ve seen. Since I’m hearing good things about Split, hopefully Glass turns out to be a good one. I may have to re-watch Unbreakable and see if my opinion changes with that one. I hardly remember it, so it should be interesting viewing.

Grade: A-

Not as good as what reviewers stated it is. While all the acting was good and the characters fleshed out, it got way too slow in both the second and third acts. I know this is total blasphemy to say, but both my wife and I agreed that 2002’s Spider-Man and 2004’s Spider-Man 2 with Tobey Maguire were overall better movies. I skipped the Andrew Garfield reboots, so I can’t comment on or compare it to them.

There were a couple of very funny moments in the movie and there was a blink-and-you-miss-it reference to Batman with Michael Keaton’s Vulture character. I’m glad I didn’t blink. Stan Lee got his obligatory cameo in early. There were a couple of good action scenes, but the ferry scene was too reminiscent of Tobey Maguire’s train scene in Spider-Man 2.

While die hard fans of the Avengers will certainly like this film and I’m sure have already seen it in the theater, others may want to wait until streaming.

Grade: B-

 

War for the Planet of the Apes is brilliant in its story, characters and technical execution. While I still noted some slight jerkiness in the CGI in a couple of scenes, the combination of motion capture and CGI is finally at the technical level to conclude that there is no practical difference between traditional (or practical) effects and the technology used to create the apes. And there are a lot of apes. There is no moment in the film like The Matrix Reloaded’s Agent Smith(s) scene where the CGI degraded badly due to the amount of it moving on the screen.

Andy Serkis as Caesar is awesome, as is Woody Harrelson as the Colonel in a subtle and scary performance as the villain. Other actors and actresses of ape characters, like Karin Karnaval as Maurice, were terrific as well. The movie also took two big risks, one with a character named “Bad Ape” and another one with a child. The Bad Ape character was used a bit for comic relief and could have gone sideways quick, as movies often have scenes ruined by characters like this at a minimum, and entire movies are sometimes ruined by them at a maximum. But not in this case. The same is true for children in movies, but this child was used at a minimum and the results of both of these risks was a movie for the better with them, rather than for the worse.

There are people out there saying this movie elevates this prequel trilogy to greatest of all time status, at least in argument. While I agree that this is probably the best concluding movie to a trilogy that I have ever seen, I disagree that it makes the trilogy the GOAT. While the first two movies were good, they weren’t great enough to elevate the trilogy as a whole in my mind. Also, this movie can stand on its own as a film without necessarily having to see the other two.

About midway through the movie when I realized just how good this movie was probably going to turn out to be, I couldn’t help but start trying to compare it to the original Planet of the Apes with Charlton Heston. Unfortunately, it’s totally like comparing apples to oranges and the two can’t be legitimately compared. Both of these movies are classics in their own right.

Grade: A+

***

I have to make a brief note about the theater I saw the movie in. I saw it in a theater that had a “Dolby Completely Captivating” system in it. I didn’t pay attention to what this was before going in the theater, I just chose it because it was the earliest showing and wasn’t 3D. While the digital screen and sound system was very nice, the chairs left a lot to be desired. They were the same recliners as the other screens have now at this AMC theater, but apparently are integrated with motion or vibration technology so that the recliner shakes when there’s loud noises (like explosions) coming from the movie. Basically, it’s a poor man’s attempt at a 4D movie theater experience without 3D and was something I didn’t want or need.

The opening preview for this technology, prior to the start of the movie, shook the chair a lot and the nicest, bestest adjective I can come up with to describe it is “slow or limited in intellectual or emotional development”. I’m prone to headaches, have had a long running one this weekend, and it didn’t help it. Fortunately, it wasn’t used as extensively in the movie as it was in the preview for Dolby, otherwise I may have had to walk out.

After the first third of the movie, I thought The Void was going to be good, instead it was mediocre-at-best. The Void was originally crowdfunded and has a 73% rating on rotten tomatoes and was certified fresh. The trailers for the film as well as reviews made it out to be a good homage to lower budget 80s Lovecraftian horror and science fiction movies from the likes of John Carpenter.

The movie turned out to be a film that wants to have the feel of a Carpenter film like a cross between Assault on Precinct 13 and The Thing in the first half with the plot of a Clive Barker Hellraiser film in the second half. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come close to living up to any of those films and while the practical effects are great, they are way overused and character development is very light. In fact, I didn’t like a single character in the film, as none of their back stories were adequately explained. Thus, I had zero emotion when something happened to them.

The film was trying to be mysterious or something with the lack of character development, but was then oddly exposition heavy explaining the void in the second half. And the void was referred to as they abyss in the film. If there was a need to title the film The Void to not cause confusion with 1989’s The Abyss from James Cameron, which is what I suspect happened, then the abyss should have been called the void in the film.

Anyway, an honest attempt was made and that counts for something. It is indeed a film that some would like, I suppose it’s just that I’ve seen better homages to 80s films recently with Stranger Things on Netflix and a little-heard-of movie titled Synchronicity, which is a low budget homage to Blade Runner, but with time travel and one that I felt was even better than everyone’s favorite low budget time travel movie, Primer.

Grade: C

Jason Bourne, I mean Matt Damon is Jason Bourne in a movie about Jason Bourne in the most original title for a film this decade: JASON BOURNE. All caps means it’s special.

And special it is – a great cast including Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, and Vincent Cassell can’t save this movie from at-best mediocrity at times and sheer stupidity in the rest of the film. There’s absolutely nothing in the movie that hasn’t been done four times before and the shaky cam is still annoying as fuck. Not only is it used for things when it shouldn’t (like looking at a phone screen), it’s used in place of real editing in this film too and the laziness shows. There’s a very half-hearted attempt at weaving privacy concerns into the storyline, but it’s just there to setup the final action sequences.

Matt Damon is JASON BOURNE. But you already know his name.

During one of these sequences, the guy hired to fail to kill Bourne, named the “Asset” of course, plows through about two dozen cars in a SWAT van in a traffic jam blowing them to the sides in dramatic fashion as bumpers, front ends and crumpled cars go flying, but the van doesn’t receive a scratch. Bourne follows in an unmarked black Dodge Charger – the movie makes sure I know this because the movie was sure to tell me this via police radio as he gets in the shiny black Charger for his commercial, I mean action sequence featuring the Charger.

The script is lazy, the direction is lazy, the characters are poor and Matt Damon phones it in. Easily the worst of the Bourne films.

SPOILER – the character played by Julia Stiles, a fan favorite in the first three films, gets killed rather early in the movie, her body simply left unceremoniously in a Greek alley somewhere. Will she miraculously come back in a future film titled The Bourne Lobotomy? Who cares?

Grade: D

I found Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 to be very good and better than the original, unlike most others. There was a lot more plot and it was all about family. The action was great, the humor was funny, and there were a couple of unexpected cameos. The CGI of a young Kurt Russel in the beginning overtop of another actor worked well too.

My chief complaint with the film was that it seemed like I was watching an extended cut. I felt strongly that about 20 minutes could have been cut and coincidentally, that would have shortened the running time to just under two hours rather than 2 hours and 16 minutes. This prevents it from getting a full A.

Grade A-

Suicide Squad came on HBONow last Saturday and I figured I needed to watch it, especially since I had just seen Batman V. Superman. I guess I should review it too. Unfortunately, I found Suicide Squad to be inferior to Batman V. Superman, even though everyone was in love with the Suicide Squad trailer, as compared to their hatred for the Batman V. Superman trailer.

The positives of the film are Will Smith’s performance as Deadshot and Margot Robbie’s performance as Harley Quinn. Interestingly, this is the first time I’ve seen Cara Delevinge on the screen, who plays an archaeologist who gets possessed by a witch named the Enchantress. Delevigne is in an upcoming film of interest, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and I have seen the trailer for that. She was hardly in the movie as the archaeologist and that performance was fine. The Enchantress performance seemed mediocre at best, but I think the primary problem was the dubbing of audio over top of her lip syncing, or something. Something wasn’t right about it at all and it took away from her performance and the scenes with the Enchantress.

The visual effects weren’t bad, but in spots weren’t necessarily good either. As for the true negatives – the story, the direction, the Joker hardly being in it. Perhaps the biggest problem with this movie is the attempt at making unlikable people likable, some of whom do unlikable things throughout the entire movie. While it generally works for Deadshot and Quinn, it fails miserably on everyone else. The other characters are completely useless too; Jai Courtney sucks as usual as an Australian named Boomerang, a guy who uses a…you guessed it…boomerang to kill people. There’s also a crocodile guy or something, a Japanese woman who uses a…you guessed it…sword to kill people and then there’s the guy that can turn his body into a flamethrower, Diablo, but then sits around most of the movie brooding while refusing to use his powers. Lame. But even lamer, there’s one guy who can climb buildings real fast and then gets killed immediately. Not even in battle. LAME.

Grade: D

Spoilers?

I rented and streamed The Devil’s Candy this past weekend based on a review by Chris Stuckmann and the fact that most reviewers are giving it positive reviews. Unfortunately, I found the film to be mediocre. The issue I had with it was that it basically seemed like a standard slasher flick. Yea, it’s an indie film and some may like the artsy take on it, but all I found that part to be was an homage to heavy metal music. And that’s pretty much all the film was – a crazy guy killing children to the backdrop of heavy metal music. Even the climactic ending seemed like it was simply an homage to heavy metal music videos and album covers.

That having been said, I liked the performances of all the actors involved especially the three family members (Kiara Glasco, the teenager, is definitely one to watch for a good film career in the future), but unfortunately, Pruitt Taylor Vince, the killer, plays his typecast character the same as most everywhere else he’s been. Which is to say very well, but I’ve seen the exact same actor playing the exact same character in movies a couple of times before (the first one being 2003’s Identity with John Cusack).

Also, Vudu had streaming problems Saturday evening when I wanted to watch the film and I ended up having to watch it Sunday evening. Lame.

Grade: C+

P.S. I found the creepiest scene to be the one where the killer appears in the girl’s bed.

Misunderstood Movies discusses movies that I assume one has seen. Thus, there are spoilers.

Reading reviews of The Forgotten, a 2004 film starring Julianne Moore, reveals that not many people like it – they found the premise and ending laughably bad. I found it to be a fresh take on an old science fiction trope, though, and while I didn’t think it was a great movie, I didn’t think it was all that bad either. The director, Joseph Ruben, had another interesting science fiction movie to his credit, Dreamscape, 20 years earlier.

The main character (I’m just going to straight up call her Julianne Moore), Moore, wakes up one morning to not have a nine year old son, even though she is sure she has one. The film sees her psychiatrist tell her she had a miscarriage and that she is suffering some form of psychosis as a result of the miscarriage years ago. Her husband, trying to be supportive, says basically the same.

Moore, intent on investigating, finds that not all is what it seems. She tracks down a man she remembers had a daughter and eventually he remembers his daughter. Together they go on the run while agents pursue them. Several scenes telegraph that it is aliens who are doing this to them. By the end of the film, it is revealed that it is indeed aliens doing it to them. The film ends.

Yep, that’s pretty much it. But the film is more a psychological thriller and it’s more the journey to the conclusion that makes it a fairly likable film to me. Reading reviews and people’s thoughts on the film reveal that nobody understood the fact that the film is portraying humans as laboratory rats even though everyone understood it was aliens who were the experimenters. The humans are literally laboratory rats, as seen in the scenes where they are suddenly pulled into the sky. It’s as if there’s an unseen tail on the human that suddenly gets yanked and the rat gets pulled away out of the experiment.

It’s even said by the psychiatrist (played by Gary Sinise) towards the end:

“They’ve been doing it for years. Maybe forever…We just try to minimize the damage…You’ve held on and they don’t know why. You’re just a lab rat to them.”

Also, when the alien presents itself, she’s in an airplane hangar. But look closer and it’s really just a rat in a maze and the alien experimenter is continuing to try to guide her. Seeing reviews and comments on the film, I don’t think many people got this. For example, Roger Ebert casually mentions it as if the hangar scene is simply a cliché:

I could easily be wrong, though, with most people having gotten the rat thing and laughing at the premise anyway. I also enjoyed the hangar scene because the actor portrayed the alien rather creepily throughout the film and I liked his “You…need…to…FORGET!” and his wipe of her memory of her child being born.

Also, the scene where the agents come out of nowhere and ram her car was very effective and is something that was copied immediately after the film came out and continues to be copied to this day. I specifically remember a set of Volkswagen commercials trying to copy this, but they weren’t nearly as effective.

It also doesn’t hurt that Moore is easy on the eyes. That’s all I’ve got for The Forgotten.