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.

The description of the film To the Bone, which stars Lily Collins as Ellen, is that Ellen is an anorexic who crosses path with an “unconventional” doctor played by Keanu Reeves. Reeves is the first-billed actor and he’s hardly in the movie and the most “unconventional” thing he does as the doctor in the film is to tell Ellen to tell the voice in her head to “fuck off”. I say fuck off a minimum of a dozen times a day, so I must be pretty fucking unconventional if you follow that logic.

Despite the false advertising, the movie is still a watchable one, albeit with problems. I had heard about the movie and had opted not to watch it, but an A- review by Chris Stuckmann got me wanting to watch it. I have no idea whether or not the film accurately portrays anorexia and people who have it. Some people say it doesn’t, others, like Stuckmann, say it does.

The performances are very good. Beyond Collins as Ellen is Alex Sharp as Luke, the only real guy in the film, and Sharp should be the second billed actor, instead he’s the FOURTEENTH down on the list on imdb. It’s his performance of goofy Luke having an interest in Ellen that actually carries the film. The writing is good too and Ellen’s dysfunctional family group therapy scene stands out as a notable example.

But, there’s also a feel-good artsy fartsy scene that feels very obligatory and one of the characters having a miscarriage shortly after a baby shower for her was the most unsurprising event in movie history. If you have a problem with me spoiling that for you, fuck off, it was obvious it would happen from the moment it was known she was pregnant early in the film.

The movie’s third act gets odd, Stuckmann calls it “transcendental”, for lack of a better word. There’s supposed to be a deeper meaning there, or something about finding a will to live, but it doesn’t work. Had it not been for the movie’s third act, it would have gotten a B.

Grade: C+

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

I got around to seeing Wonder Woman today on Father’s Day and it’s as good as the majority of the reviews stated it is. I found it to be the best DC Comics movie since The Dark Knight, and that’s very good company.

The story is good, the characters are fleshed out enough and it’s an entertaining summer movie. Gal Gadot makes Wonder Woman her own in this film and her quality performance is not surprising. I had first seen her in the Fifth Fast and Furious movie and knew then that she was one to watch. When she was cast as Wonder Woman in Batman V Superman, I was not concerned whereas some others were. Her performance proved me right.

Chris Pine is good, as usual, as is the supporting cast (both in the beginning on Themyscira and in the last half of the movie in the WWI fighting. There’s some great actors and actresses in the bunch, so that was not surprising as well.

The film is also apolitical, something that is very refreshing in this day and age. Men and women are treated as equals in the film and that must drive modern (third wave) feminists nuts. Articles that try to inject politics into the film are simply there to get clicks from their respective audiences and an article I read complaining that the USA is nowhere to be found in the movie when Wonder Woman is an American character, while true, is stupid in its complaint and there to get clicks too.

The actual majority of the complaints about the film I saw was that the villains are not that great. I think these reviewers (and there seemed to be a bunch of them) missed the obvious point (IMO) that the actual villain in the movie is war itself (or “Ares” to Wonder Woman). The horrors of war are adequately depicted in this movie so I found it to be a good villain.

I was concerned about the color palette of the film going into it, as the muted tones in the previous recent DC Comics movies from Zach Snyder is still in use in this movie by Patty Jenkins. The muted tones work well in London and the WWI fighting and provided a nice contrast to the brightness of Princess Diana’s home shown at the beginning of the film.

At 141 minutes, the length reminds me of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, but unlike GGV2, the movie does not feel that long and did not feel as though sections should have been cut. The extra length is due to the Themyscira origins story, a necessary and great section of the film, and that was tightly edited as well.

My only real complaint about the film is the CGI-heavy ending, but it’s a minor complaint and all superhero movies and virtually all action movies do that anyway.

Grade: A

A couple of additional notes:

Wonder Woman raises the bar for Justice League coming out in later November. I previously had lower expectations for the movie, but hopefully Snyder has learned from his two previous DC Comics outings as well as from Jenkins in Wonder Woman because now I assume the expectations are high from most everyone.

Wonder Woman is also responsible for the internet giving us one of the better memes of the past year. Whoever made this after the first trailer came out is quite the funnyman:

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-

I brought back my subscription to HBONow a day into the flu to get some new things to watch when I wasn’t dead in bed. Here’s some brief reviews, none of them of brand new movies or shows:

Westworld: The best series I’ve seen. Better than Game of Thrones, which jumped the shark at the very, very end of season 5. The blonde woman with the snake tattoo, played brilliantly by Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, is absolutely lovable in her badassery, even though it’s a pretty small part. Everyone else does well too. I also liked seeing Tessa Thompson again, who I first really saw in Creed. I ended up binge watching the entire season over two days thanks to it being so good. Grade: A+

Batman V Superman: I finally saw it thanks to the subscription and while it wasn’t a great film it wasn’t terrible either. My issues with it were the length and the odd tonal shifts where they tried to shoehorn in items for the next Justice League movie. While a lot of people were harping on Affleck being Batman when it was first announced, my issue at the time was with Eisenberg being Lex Luthor. I’m happy to say his performance as Luthor wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Grade: B-

Independence Day: Resurgence: Not good. There was mediocre CGI, bad green screen, lame plot. And that was in the first 30 minutes because I fell asleep after that. So, I can’t really say I saw the movie. Another noteworthy item – “Madam President” is introduced within the first few minutes of the film, instantly dating itself to the dark times of the mid-teens where Hollywood was simply assuming the next President would be Hillary Clinton and was helping pave the way. Grade: D (from what I saw of it)

X-Men Apocalypse: While it was nothing that hasn’t been seen before, it was a decent movie and it being set in the 80s was fun. Sansa Stark, I mean Sophie Turner, played a young Jean well and I liked seeing how Charles Xavier lost his hair. Truthfully, there’s been so many X-Men movies, I have no idea if this is supposed to be in an alternate timeline or not compared to others from the 2000s as well as others from this decade. Regardless, it was a fun movie. Grade: B